Where the Stars Still Shine

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4.5 (3)
 
4.9 (3)
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Where the Stars Still Shine
Author(s)
Age Range
14+
Release Date
September 24, 2013
ISBN
978-1619631441
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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.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

Editor reviews

3 reviews

Overall rating 
 
4.5
Plot 
 
4.3  (3)
Characters 
 
4.3  (3)
Writing Style 
 
4.7  (3)
An engaging and realistic contemporary with brilliant and poignant writing
Overall rating 
 
3.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Where the Stars Shine is a very well written book. I loved how it took a somewhat tough subject, and made it somewhat light-hearted, yet also serious and real at the same time. This is one of those times, yet again, where the writing is poetic and beautiful, but there isn’t much that happens. Not to say that it’s a bad thing, because I’ve been relentlessly bored in the past with well-written, yet uneventful books. Thankfully, the main character’s voice was intriguing and despite the lack of intense drama and action, the pace was steady and I found I rather enjoyed this one. Things were very exciting at the beginning, it did kind of dull out in the middle, but towards the end things really picked up.
Here you have a girl who was taken away from a loving family before she even knew what was going on. She dealt with a lot of troubling issues growing up like a flaky and emotional mother, no friends or any sense of normal (having never gone to school or had any proper meals or a proper home), and she dealt with a seriously traumatizing issues as a child. Callie was a decent female protagonist, and while there were times I couldn’t really connect with or understand her, especially when it came to how her and Alex started things, other times, I loved being in her head, seeing all she went through and watching her adjust to her new life.
I also really liked the secondary characters, especially Kat. And I loved the setting. Modern-day Greek culture, food, and language, what’s not to love?! I definitely didn’t know there was such a big Greek population in that part of Florida and I really enjoyed the descriptions of the town, what people like Alex did for a living, and seeing Callie’s family dynamic. Although I could see Alex’s appeal, I didn’t really care for him, but I understood his purpose during Callie’s journey to self-discovery.
While I didn’t love this like I was hoping, I still really enjoyed it and I know YA Contemporary fans will love it. I’m beginning to think I’m not much of a Contemporary fan, at least when it comes to stories like this. I feel like these are the kinds of books that are supposed to tug at your emotions and make you feel something deep and meaningful, but I think I’m missing that gene because I never really get emotional reading these kinds of books. Like Eleanor & Park, Uses for Boys, or Our Song, for example. But really, that’s just my issue. Still, I really did like this one, probably more so than a lot of others I’ve read this year, so if this sounds like you’re kind of book, then I’d definitely recommend you give it a try.
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Trish Doller Is One of the Top Contemporary Authors
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
What I Loved:
Trish Doller’s debut novel wasn’t one that I ordinarily would have picked out or been particularly interested in, but the reviews convinced me to give Something Like Normal a try. That was a wonderful bookish decision, because, though the topic itself didn’t appeal to me, Doller still managed to lure me into the book, a hold that didn’t release until the last page. In fact, the main character wasn’t someone I could relate to in the slightest, and the kind of person I would ordinarily loathe, but Doller made me care for him. This is I think the biggest strength of her writing, one she brings to bear in Where the Stars Still Shine as Well. Doller’s sophomore novel does not disappoint, covering similarly gritty subjects in an emotional and frank way.

As with Doller’s first novel, her sophomore effort once again centers around a main character very much unlike myself. Callie has lived the life of a migrant, following her itchy-footed mother from place to place. They barely have enough to make ends meet, often skipping town on overdue rent checks. Since childhood, Callie’s life has always been this way, and she’s not been to school since kindergarten. Her only education comes from books, scavenged from sales or libraries; reading is one of her only joys. Abused by one of her mother’s boyfriends, Callie’s view of sex and herself has been warped. She feels dirty, tainted, and throws herself into meaningless sexual encounters almost to prove her own opinion of herself. In pretty much every way, Callie’s life has been entirely unlike mine, and her decisions are ones that I would never personally make. And yet Doller works her author magic, making me feel for this girl and empathize with her in a way I ordinarily would not be able to do. Doller brings Callie to life and puts the reader into her mind so solidly that her flawed mental processes make sense.

When her mother is arrested, Callie’s world upends. Suddenly, her mother, her only family and sole companion for the last twelve years, is out of her life, and she’s to live with her father and his new family. Feeling oddly uprooted, Callie really has a chance to lay down roots for the first time, to make friends and have a family. Callie evolves slowly and believably. Even though her new family supports her and the community accepts her, the patterns of the previous decade are hard to break, and she continually makes decisions that push people away or that she knows to be unwise, like her hook ups with the hottest guy in town, Alex Kostas. As the book progresses, what I found most touching and powerful in Callie’s narration was the way it really opened up, the tone becoming cheerful and childlike as she feels settled and safe enough to really let go for the first time in years.

The familial relationships form the backbone of Where the Stars Still Shine. Though largely absent during the novel, Callie’s mother holds powerful sway over her. Even as the lies she’s been told surface, Callie cannot sever the ties to her mother, who was her whole world for so long. The power parents have over the emotions of their children is horrifying. Meanwhile, Callie’s father, Greg, is incredibly sweet but also awkward, trying to find the young child he lost in this distant seventeen-year-old. Basically Greg wins for planning to build Callie a library. Even Greg’s wife, who in many novels would be a villain, has a back story and depth to her, and helps Callie progress.

For the first time ever, Callie has the chance to make real friends. Initially, I was not a huge fan of Kat, Callie’s cousin, who barges into her life and claims best friend status. Kat comes across as pushy and selfish, forcing Callie into a set up with Connor, who really isn’t Callie’s type. Kat annoyed me and didn’t seem to be helping Callie much either. Towards the end of the book, though, Kat almost made me cry with her thoughtfulness, hidden under her rambunctious exterior. Though not a kindred spirit perhaps, she’s just the kind of person needed to help pull Callie out of her shell, emotional, open with her feelings, and understanding.

Where the Stars Still Shine does get fairly steamy, but not to a level that I find in any way inappropriate for a YA novel. Alex Kostas totally fooled me. I thought there was nothing to him but a guy looking to get laid, but he’s actually got his own reasons for being where he is. Actually, all people do, and that’s an easy thing to forget. I judged Alex off of that first moment he appeared, and that wasn’t all there was to him. I really like the way Doller handles the relationship between Callie and Alex. It hit just the right note and differed from so many YA romances.

Just last week, I visited Florida, and my friend, Kara, pointed out a heavily Greek neighborhood as she drove past while taking me to the airport. She even told me she’d bought her bath sponge there, which I thought was a really odd comment. Like, big whoop, it’s a sponge. However, I’m so glad she pointed these things out to me, because Where the Stars Still Shine takes place in Florida in a predominantly Greek community. Callie works in a shop that sells sponges to tourists and Kostas works on a sponging boat. The setting is a delight, the Greek characters shining with the same sort of close-knit community that I loved so much in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Perhaps my favorite thing about Where the Stars Still Shine, though, is that Doller doesn’t wrap everything up in a neat, shiny bow. Callie’s come a long way by the end, and so have some of the other characters, but there are still a lot of issues lingering. Though the ending is fairly happy, it’s not a happily ever after and it’s most definitely bittersweet. Real life doesn’t tend to get to complete perfection, and ending realistic fiction that way often seems misleading to me. Doller’s ending both satisfies and leaves room for a future with problems and changes.

The Final Verdict:
Much as I loved Something Like Normal, I may even have loved Where the Stars Still Shine even more. Either way, Doller has cemented herself as one of the finest contemporary YA novelists. Her novels draw the reader in and help create empathy for people in situations that might be radically different from one’s own.
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This Was Like A Gift I Didn't Know I Needed.
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
LOVED.IT.SO.HARD!

What I Loved: Completely unputdownable, this was one of those stories that sucked me right in and didn't want to let me go until it broke my heart in the best way possible. Beautiful writing, endearing characters and a gripping story of family, forgiveness and love - what it is and what it isn't.

Callie struggles to find her place in the strange new world of Tarpon Springs, Florida with a family that is both foreign to her yet strangely familiar too. Old habits die hard and old wounds run deep, but Callie is surrounded by people who love and support her even when she doesn't make the best decisions. Her father Greg is one of those people and I absolutely loved him!

This was one of the best father-daughter relationships I've read in contemporary YA. It would've been so easy for him to add to the pain of Callie's new life whether by rejecting her or villainizing her mother, because he is hurting too, but he doesn't. Instead, Greg lovingly sets boundaries while also allowing Callie room to grow and heal. He doesn't give up when she closes herself off either, but makes sure she knows that she is loved and wanted.

Then there is...a guy. One who struggles between doing what's best and what's expected. One who extends a gentleness and patience toward Callie that left me clutching my chest, fanning my face and wiping my eyes.

The ending left me in tears but with a smile on my face.

What Left Me Wanting More: Nothing. However, I could read an entire book devoted to sponge diving, especially if it were a picture book. ;)

Final Verdict: Another fantastic story from an equally fantastic author! READ.IT.
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User reviews

3 reviews

Overall rating 
 
4.9
Plot 
 
4.7  (3)
Characters 
 
5.0  (3)
Writing Style 
 
5.0  (2)
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A book that isn’t afraid of sex or mistakes! One of my favorites of 2013
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Some books have a beauty that defies words and is so hard to talk about even though you want to talk it up to the moon and back because it’s that good. Where the Stars Still Shine is one of those books and coming from a picky reader like me, that’s not praise to be taken lightly. Doller paints a messy picture of Callie and who she is because of the life she’s led, but it’s a lovely one too. It could have easily gone wrong, but she makes all the right brush strokes to bring out just the right images and emotions.

Callie. Oh wow, Callie. The poor girl has had it anything but easy after so many years of being on the run with a mentally ill mother whose disease runs her life (and whose struggles are portrayed without judgment or ableism, thank goodness). The girl uses sex to cope and goes off alone at all hours and pushes people away when they only want to help, but flashes of how Frank abused her and what else she went through helped me understand her. Victims cope in all sorts of ways that can be healthy or unhealthy. That’s hers.

Callie’s family and friends really come to life too. Her best friend/cousin Kat is often annoying, but the rest of the family is larger than life and may conform to the media stereotype of a Greek family, but they feel real all the same. There’s more focus on the romance-ish thing she has going on with a boy named Alex than her family for most of the book, though. I’m a fan of Alex and Callie mostly because of how their relationship develops and turns out. It gets a pretty satisfactory conclusion, especially considering the fact he’s her step-uncle. No true relation, but it’s still weird to think about.

Doller has such a way with words and characters, which makes me sad that Arcadia Falls, her next book, isn’t going to come out until at least 2015. I guess I can occupy my time until then with rereading her books and hoping the many non-Trish books I’ll read between now and 2015 will be as good as hers. (Fun fact: This short little review took an hour of banging my head on the keyboard and another hour of tying to find the right words after I stopped the aforementioned head-on-keyboard shenanigans.)
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Powerful and raw story that centers on Callie's character growth.
Overall rating 
 
4.5
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
N/A
Wow. What an emotional and raw book. I cannot imagine growing up like Callie did. Her mom abducted her as a child and they have been on the run since. Callie doesn't know if she will be in a new state in 24 hours, or where her next meal will come from, but she still manages. She fiercely loves her mom even when she is tired of the lifestyle, and that shows a lot about her character.
I felt for her, and totally understood where she had build up walls, but loved to see the tender side, and that she still stands up for herself--she makes strides to read and learn even when the odds are against her, and she has her own personality instead of drawing into herself like I probably would.
But her and her mom are caught and she is returned to her Father. She didn't really know much about him and as she soon realizes, most of what she thought she knew just wasn't true. She also learns things about her mom that makes things all begin to make a lot of sense about how she grew up and the decisions her mom made.
I saw such growth in Callie as she realized what life could be like. Learning a new kind of familial love, what having a true friend means, and through some very cute kids, her half-brothers a lot about life, love and acceptance. She also has a large extended family, and I loved that atmosphere, and can totally see how it would be a shock to her--coming from a life of basically just her and her mom and the occasional boyfriend of her mom's that lasted more than a week.
There is a semi-triangle, but it never really escalates because she makes a clear choice, and while I feel bad for the guy not chosen because he really was a good guy, in the end chemistry is really needed and she had that with her choice.
Alex is handsome and I thought that he had amazing layers. I didn't think that he would at first, but he really pleasantly surprised me, and I was so glad to see the trust built between the two and their affection and hot chemistry.
Kat is her cousin and appoints herself her best friend because they were as kids, and I love how she is with Callie. She teaches her what being a friend and family is all about and even though it was rough because Callie never had a girl friend before, I am so glad that Kat proved herself worthy and stuck by her.
There is flashbacks of molestation in this one. Callie went through some really tough stuff, and she has nightmares about it. It is fairly descriptive, but it just, for me, added to the power of the story. I know that might be a limit for some, so I thought that I would mention it.
The ending wraps up a lot, but it does leave some threads open, but I think it is fitting with this and my mind went to town with the hope, promise and twinge of uncertainty.

Bottom Line: Powerful and raw story that centers on Callie's character growth.
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Gorgeous.
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
I wasn't sure what I was going to be getting myself into once I started reading. I was hoping for something light because the last few books I read were on the heavy side. I wanted something fun. I wanted something that wouldn't keep me up at night worrying about the characters.

Uh, no. I got EXACTLY what I was trying to avoid. But, goddammit if I'm not completely in love with Where the Stars Still Shine.

This is truly such a beautiful, captivating book.

Callie is an interesting girl. I couldn't help but sympathize with her. She's been through hell and back, and to be such a strong person takes a lot.

Alex. Oh sweet, sweet Alex. Admittedly, he takes what he wants and he doesn't seem to have a hard time getting it. He's a boy with a future and that's something I completely love.

Just about every other supporting character in Tarpon Springs is genuine. I'ts a place I wouldn't mind getting lost in. Callie's dad and step mom are undeniably real and I SO WISH I had little brothers like Joe and Tuck. OMG adorable.

Now, Callie's mom is a review in itself. I hated her. I hate people who don't grow up when they have something worth growing up for. When they float through life living on a string of hope when they have something obviously worth living for. She's immature. She's sick (and not just in the diagnosed way). In the end, sure, she redeems herself, and she sure as shit got what she deserves. But still, I found myself physically rolling my eyes every time she was brought up. Uh. I just hate people like that.

In the end, it's a book that will stick with you. Forever. It's one of those "back of the mind" books, where it just lives there and pops up at random moments.

Written enchantingly, I cant say I'm disappointed in reading it.
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