Release Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 308 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads
Summary (from Goodreads)
Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She's never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she'd like to forget completely. But when Callie's mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie's real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love - even with someone who seems an improbable choice - is more than just a possibility.
Thoughts on Where the Stars Still Shine
I read Trish Doller's debut, Something Like Normal, earlier this year but chose not to review it. I really liked it, and I was so impressed by Doller's ability to write such strong, memorable characters. While the story and the setting have been special and unique in both of her books, I really feel like it's the characters that make the books truly stand out.
When I first saw the cover for Where the Stars Still Shine, I fell in love. I had no idea what the book was about, and I don't even think I'd read Something Like Normal at that point, but it was definitely interested in it. One thing I've realized now that I've read this book - the cover doesn't fully portray the depth and feelings in this book. Don't get me wrong, I still love the cover... but you've got to know going into this book that it's not all light and fun.
Callie has spent her entire life on the run with her mom. There have been horrible moments and painful memories, but she still loves her mom. It's the only life she's ever known. The past finally catches up to them - Callie's mom is arrested and Callie is returned to her father. She's headed back to huge Greek family in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and there are bound to be a few bumps along the way.
My favorite thing in Where the Stars Still Shine were the characters. They were well-developed, unique and felt so real. I loved that family was a HUGE aspect of this book, and it was done in a way that felt so fresh. There is often a gaping hole in YA where parents, siblings and extended family ought to be. While I know that a book can't focus on every single aspect of a character's life, I do often get frustrated with the fact that it seems as though many teen live in total isolation from their family.
Well, that's definitely not the case in this book! I can't even choose my favorite person in the family. Callie's dad is doing his best to make the transition home as easy as possible for her. Callie's grandmother is a little spitfire and exactly how I would imagine a Greek matriarch. Despite a few rough moments, Callie's cousin became such a good friend to her - another thing I loved! It's so special when a family member is also a close friend.
Callie herself is not really a likable character. She's constantly hurting the people around her. Pushing everyone away to protect herself makes her a hard character to love. My heart broke for her, but I also wanted her to see how she kept sabotaging her own happiness. However, it was entirely believable that she'd act that way, so this isn't a complaint about the book or the character. If there's anything I felt was lacking in Where the Stars Still Shine, it's professional help for Callie. I know everyone was doing their best to help her start over in Tarpon Springs, but I did feel like she was thrown into this new world without enough attention given to her emotional needs. In light of the abuse she'd suffered, I found myself wanting one of the adults in her life to insist she get the help she needed. It's like she was supposed to just forget the past and move on - but there are some deeply traumatic things that have happened to her and have totally affected the way she interacts with the world. I didn't feel like she was given the resources she really needed to process what had happened to her.
The romantic relationship was believable, even if I was somewhat hesitant about the way it started. It's not my favorite way to read about a relationship beginning, but I did think it felt authentic to Callie's character. So, at the same time, it did make sense to me. Alex was definitely charming, and I loved the tension he was experiencing with his own family. What's interesting is that I wasn't really that invested in the romance. There were things about it that kept me from loving it, but I think that's partly because of where these two characters are at this point in their lives.
I did think that the book ended really nicely. Everything isn't all wrapped up, but it's something that felt very realistic. It's not a story that really calls for a ribbon around the ending. Callie's life is messy, so it's only fitting that the ending would have a few loose ends.
Tarpon Springs was such a special setting. The Greek culture came alive, and I felt so connected with the places described in this book. I could just picture this little beach town and the colorful characters that populated it.
In Where the Stars Still Shine, Doller has created a heroine with a heartbreaking past who just keeps getting in the way of her own future. I find it really interesting that Doller has now written two protagonists who have endured really painful events in their pasts and are struggling to find some semblance of normal without hurting all of the people that truly love them. They aren't always successful - but the journey is certainly one worth taking. I'm really excited to see what else Doller writes in the future!
"I've never been in love before, but this moment is bittersweet and tender and terrible and perfect. Surely this must be it."