Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Title: Where the Stars Still Shine
Author: Trish Doller
Series: stand-alone
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source: from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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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.

When I read Trish Doller's debut novel Something Like Normal last year, I was only just starting my contemporary kick, but that novel compelled me to pick up one after the other, unable to satiate my hunger for a great coming-of-age novel. And I never thought I'd enjoy novels that tackled such tough subjects as child molestation or kidnapping or alcoholic parents or post-traumatic stress disorder, but I do.  Very much I do.

So I'm not sure why I was so reluctant to pick up Where the Stars Still Shine, even though I've had a review copy for ages it seems.  Maybe it's all of the mixed reviews...apparently, this is a novel you either really love or really loathe, if the reviews I've seen are to be believed.  But after having just finished up a rather fluffy contemporary, I was ready to feel something real and powerful, and I know from experience that Trish Doller can give me that.

It's weird because I think I actually connected more to Travis, the male protagonist in Something Like Normal, better than I did Callie in this story.  But I feel like maybe I'm not supposed to be able to empathize with Callie because even though she'd been through quite a bit in her seventeen years, she refuses to face any of it head-on.  Callie pretends like none of it ever happened until she absolutely can't keep quiet anymore, but even once she's owned up to her past, she still won't deal with it.  She'd prefer to go back to pretending it never happened, which is one of the main reasons I can't sympathize with her character for much of the book.

Callie didn't grow up with a normal childhood, obviously, but because her mom was hiding their location all this time, Callie hasn't ever attended public school, and she's severely lacking in social skills.  Especially when it comes to the opposite sex.  She doesn't understand how relationships work and that not everyone is looking to avoid one.  Her inexperience with relationships and simply having friends leads to some rather awkward moments for her, the kind that make you cringe and wish you could give the girl a few pointers, but they do add some levity to an otherwise dismal situation.

But I hope you don't think I'm implying that Callie is completely inexperienced when it comes to men.  Quite the contrary. She's got more than her share of experience, none of it good.  There is some sexual content in this book, but none of it is graphic, and sometimes it's only shown to depict some of the worst things Callie's suffered at the hands of others.  But there are heated moments and tender moments, most where Greek god Alex is concerned.  This guy is nothing like I expected, and he actually treats Callie fairly decent, despite having been labeled as a bit of a player early on in the book. Generally speaking, I liked the guy, but he won't be making it on any of my book boyfriend lists anytime soon.

I think the romance and the family drama balanced each other out in this novel.  It was difficult for Callie to acclimate to her new big Greek family after being raised by her semi-crazy mother and whatever boyfriend she was with at the time. Adjusting to so much time spent with new people and finding out she had so many people that cared about her well-being proved tough on Callie, and I think Alex helped to soften that blow a little bit.  But his existence in Callie's life wasn't all-consuming, even if she did blow off plans to spend time with him.  By the end, it seemed like she truly realized that she had to make peace with her new life and reacquaint herself with the family she'd been taken from as a child, not pine after a boy.

This story was messy.  So much inner turmoil on Callie's part and then having to deal with a new family and old issues resurfacing.  I think Doller addressed most of the issues in Callie's life fairly well; I don't feel like anything was glossed over for simplicity's sake, but I definitely think some of the issues could have been delved into further.  The healing process is a slow one, though, so I imagine it will take longer than what one book could show us for Callie to truly mend. There are a lot of layers to this story and I think Where the Stars Still Shine only grazed the top few.  It was gritty and realistic but not deeply so.  This is what I call a surface where I'd preferred the author dig a little deeper into the characters' souls and expose all of their flaws and imperfections, not just the ones it was convenient to show.

I enjoyed the book, just not as much as Something Like Normal, though I think it may have kicked off another "tough subject" contemporary kick for me.  I'm ready to feel some feels again.  I feel a little broken and a little hopeful after reading Where the Stars Still Shine, but I'm ready to break out the ugly crying.

GIF it to me straight*:

I was left wanting more, but at least I have some hope.

About the author:

I've been a writer as long as I've been able to write, but I didn't make a conscious decision to "be" a writer until fairly recently. For that you should probably be thankful.

I was born in Germany, grew up in Ohio, went to college at Ohio State University, got married to someone really excellent, bounced from Maine to Michigan and back to Ohio for awhile. Now I live in Florida with my two mostly grown kids, two dogs, and a pirate. For real.

I've worked as a morning radio personality, a newspaper reporter, and spent all my summers in college working at an amusement park. There I gained valuable life skills, including counting money really fast, directing traffic, jumping off a moving train, and making cheese-on-a-stick. Also, I can still welcome you to Frontier Town. Ask me sometime.
These days I work as a bookseller at a Very Big Bookstore. And I write.

Find Trish:


  1. I actually just read Something Like Normal and for some reason, I couldn't connect to Travis because of his questionable romantic decisions (The cheating). For that reason, I'll give Where the Stars still shine a miss, it sounds like the book is kind of all over the place and Callie is difficult to connect to. Great review Jen!

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

  2. This one looks so good! I will definitely try to find it now :-)
    Great review.

    Em @

  3. Gifs are nice. I have Something Like Normal on my wish list. I get in the mood for these grittier contemporaries sometimes too. Sounds like another one that will be good for that mood.

  4. Great review. I positively LOVED this book, but I completely understand why people had issues with it.

  5. Looking forward to reading this one. Nice review.


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