Marchetta Madness: Guest Post by Trish Doller

Trish Doller’s debut novel, Something Like Normal, is one of my most anticipated 2012 releases (my review). Did it live up to my expectations? Definitely. Which is why I was ecstatic when Trish mentioned that her main character, Travis, was partly inspired by Melina Marchetta’s Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road. Check out what Trish has to say about how the swoon-worthy Jonah Griggs influenced her writing.


I’ve read most of Melina Marchetta’s books, but my favorite remains ON THE JELLICOE ROAD. Why? Two words: Jonah Griggs.

Well, okay, the story is brilliant and beautiful, but for me, Jonah is pretty much the perfect love interest. He’s big, tough, strong, and in the beginning he’s a bit menacing and we learn he’s got a past, so he’s got a bit of bad boy about him. But as the story unfolds, he reveals the softer middle that makes him better than a bad boy. The way he worries about Taylor’s asthma. The way he’s vulnerable around her. And the cranky, gruff way he admits how he feels?

He stops and looks at me. “I’m here because of you. You’re my priority. Your happiness, in some fucked way, is tuned in to mine. Get that through your thick skull. Would I like it to be any other way? Hell, yes, but I don’t think that will be happening in my lifetime.”

Swoon. This is a boy who will be a rock and woe to anyone who tries to move him. And, as far as I’m concerned, a boy like that is so much better than a bad boy.

When I stared writing the book that would eventually become SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL, the main character was a girl and Travis was meant to be her romantic lead. As I thought about him, I knew I wanted him to have the same kind of tough-guy-with-a-soft-center quality that Jonah Griggs’ possesses.

And then the story changed. Travis became the main character and it was his world that was in turmoil. So the difference between the two boys becomes Jonah’s ability to reveal his softness in layers, while Travis’ vulnerabilities are laid bare for the reader to see. While I still think there’s a lot of Jonah in Travis, when you think about it, who is the real Griggs in SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL? Harper.

A wave of anger crashes over me. At myself for being unable to control my reactions. At Harper for just putting on a smile and saying it’s all good when it’s not all good. I throw my soda cup at the wall. It bursts on impact, splashing Coke everywhere.
“You’re too fucking nice to me.” I’m yelling at her and I don’t know why.
“What do you want me to do, Travis?” she yells back. “Be mad at you about this? Don’t be stupid.”

I don’t know about you, but I kind of like the idea of a female Griggs. Harper doesn’t baby Travis. She doesn’t shrink in the face of his outbursts, either. And when he’s at his lowest, she is a rock and woe to anyone who tries to move her.

So this guest post didn’t turn out exactly as I expected. I was going to tell you how one of Melina Marchetta’s characters inspired one of my own. Turns out, Jonah Griggs actually inspired two. Which is even better.


Thank you, Trish! Your guest post is like an ode to Jonah Griggs (which is always a good thing because he’s my favorite Marchetta male lead). Also, I think it’s awesome that he served as an inspiration for your own characters. Fellow Marchetta fans, does this post make you curious about Something Like Normal? 🙂 Who are other fictional characters that remind you of Marchetta’s boys and girls?

Check out these Marchetta Madness posts in other blogs:
Maja reviews Froi of the Exiles over at The Nocturnal Library
Alex talks about her first Marchetta read over at A Girl, Books and Other Things

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Trish Doller’s debut novel, Something Like Normal, is one of my most anticipated releases this year. I read the excerpt and immediately wanted to read the book, I probably would have if it was already available at that time. I’ve also chatted with Trish on Twitter and I keep liking and reblogging her Tumblr posts. I was really excited when I finally got my hands on a copy of her book and I read it as soon as I could.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

When Travis Stephenson returns home from Afghanistan, his parents are on the brink of divorce, his brother has stolen his girlfriend and his car, and nightmares of his best friend getting killed keep him completely spooked. But when he runs into Harper Gray, a girl who despises him for trashing her reputation with a middle school lie, life actually starts looking up. As Travis and Harper see more of each other, he starts falling for her and a way through the family meltdown, the post-traumatic stress, and the possibility of an interesting future begins to emerge.

I love reading older YA or new adult novels and I believe Something Like Normal falls under these categories. Sure, Travis is just 19 but I think being a Marine makes him a more mature character. He’s seen and experienced the atrocities of war and is suffering from the loss of his best friend, Charlie. Now I’ve never been a teenage boy so I don’t exactly know how they think. But I do have guy friends and I feel like Travis has a realistic voice for a guy. He’s far from being perfect and he makes stupid mistakes throughout the course of the novel but I believe he’s a decent guy who genuinely wants to get his act together. It’s just that he’s messed up from everything that he’s been through – failing his father’s unreasonable expectations, signing up to be in the military to escape and heading off straight to serve in an unfamiliar country. Also, I know next to nothing about Marines but I found Travis’ experiences intriguing.

Trish Doller’s debut is something that I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone, even those who don’t usually read contemporary YA because I feel like it has crossover appeal for many readers. It’s refreshing in the sense that it doesn’t focus on a high school setting, isn’t just about the romance and is the first novel that I’ve read with a teen main character in the military. Something Like Normal is very easy to fall into. It’s the kind of novel that you read within one day because you can’t get enough of Travis and his complicated relationships – his issues with his dad and his brother, how he tries to be a better son to his overly supportive mother, how he interacts with his Marine buddies and how he gets to know the girl he’s always had a crush on. While I don’t think the romance is the main focus of the novel, there was plenty of swoon that kept me more than satisfied. I like that Travis and Harper have a history that dates back to middle school. Harper is just the person Travis needs in his life – she’s smart, fun to be with and knows exactly how to handle him. Here’s a spoiler-free snippet from early on:

“Do you need help?” a female voice from behind asks.

I’m about to throw an offended no over my shoulder when Harper comes up alongside me, all green eyes and tousled hair. I could probably look at her forever and not get tired of that face. “If I say yes will you think less of me?”

She shrugs, but I can see a smile at the corner of her mouth. “I already do think less of you.”

Doesn’t that make you curious? Like I said, I love Trish’s Tumblr so I thought it would be fitting to include some of the images that she’s posted in this review. These images actually remind of Travis and Harper. 🙂

Something Like Normal will be released June 19, 2012 and I know this review is ridiculously early but I couldn’t help but spread the word about this novel. I have a feeling a lot of readers will fall in love with Travis’ story. Can’t wait to see what Trish writes next.

Other reviews:
A Good Addiction