When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.
This book is absolutely amazing. I had put it on my TBR list when I found it on Goodreads back in January, and I've been waiting for it since then. It is probably one of the best contemporary YA books I've read this year. This book has a great narrator, story, characters, and romance. Everything about it is well-done.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
Travis is an amazing narrator. In YA fiction, there are not many male narrators or nineteen year old narrators, and Travis is both. He is a nineteen year old male Marine on leave from Afghanistan. He does not come from Afghanistan unscathed since he saw his best friend die in combat, and he now has nightmares remembering his friend Charlie's death. Travis is not a perfect guy. He has flaws, but they make him realistic. He made mistakes when he was younger, but war changes him.
Next there is Harper, Travis' love interest. In middle school, Travis ruined her reputation by letting people believe Harper had slept with him. He didn't start that rumor, but when it spread, he didn't stop it. Harper doesn't want to forgive Travis right away, and their relationship begins with Harper punching Travis in the face. He deserves that punch for what he did to her, too. Harper slowly begins to realize that Travis has changed, and the two of them become friends. Eventually, they become romantically involved, but the romance happens slowly and realistically. I love the two of them as a couple, and as individuals. They are so adorable together.
Next there are Travis' friends from the Marines. There names are Kevlar and Moss, and they come to visit Travis in Florida. They are a great group of friends. They like to play tricks on each other, and they insult each other, but they are still loyal and have each others' backs. They seem like realistic young men. They drink, say bad words, and talk about girls. I love the trick that Travis plays on them in the Waffle House. It has to do with a bet. I won't say all the details, but that is a great scene with these three friends. Though Charlie is dead during the course of the novel, the reader can get a sense of his character through flashbacks. A great scene is the flashback when he mentions how his mom tried to talk his out of joining the Marines.
Finally there is Travis' family. They have many problems, but the problems are realistic. Travis' dad is cheating on his mom, yet she is not standing up for herself because she thinks she will be lonely without him. There are few great mother-son scenes between Travis and his mom. I am glad she decides to divorce the dad by the end of the book. I did not like Travis' son at all. He basically became his dad's least favorite son because he stopped playing football. I did not like Travis' brother, Ryan, either. While Travis was in Afghanistan, Ryan took Travis' girlfriend and car. Travis' ex-girlfriend's name is Paige, and I disliked her. She breaks up with Travis in a letter. Once Travis is back, she sneaks into his room at night to sleep with him even though she is dating Ryan. Luckily, Travis ends it all with Paige when he realizes he can have a better relationship with Harper.
If you like YA contemporary and male narrators, read this book.