Where the Stars Still Shine
By Trish Doller
September 24, 2013
Ages 12 and up
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.
Be sure to enter my giveaway for a pre-order of WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE!
I struggled writing my review for WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE by Trish Doller. Not because the book lacked for anything (because it doesn’t), nor because I didn’t like it (because I adore it). More-so, I struggled because I wanted to adequately put into words just how much this story means to me, both as a reader as well as someone who is highly familiar with the book’s setting. Rare is it that one has the opportunity to read a book that takes place in their own hometown. Rarer still is when that book turns out to be both exhilarating and profound, something simply unforgettable. WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE is such a book.
Trish is carving a place for herself in the world of contemporary fiction as an exceptional author who writes about situations that many of us hardly even dare to imagine in our normal, everyday lives – things that we only hear about from the news. What’s more is that she is not afraid to take these already stark situations to even darker places and weave her ideas into realistic works of imaginative fiction that make you think. In Something Like Normal, Trish explores how a military man with PTSD deals with returning to a house that is something less than normal. In WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE, Trish ups her game by telling the story of a young lady who was never given the opportunity to live a “normal” life, having been on the run with her unstable mother for the past ten years. How Callie reacts when she is suddenly given the family she had been denied all those years will both amaze you and break your heart.
As I said before, one of the biggest selling points when I found out about WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE (aside from the fact that I adore the author and her previous work) was the fact that it takes place practically in my own backyard. While this fact alone may not be a selling point for you, the fact that Trish really couldn’t pick a better setting – a setting that is as much a part of the story as any of the main characters (in fact, the location is like a character unto itself) – should be reason enough for me to address it. Tarpon Springs, Florida is one of (if not the) largest concentrations of Greek people in the United States. If you know anything about Greek families, they are usually large, highly cultural and set in tradition and, essentially, the prime definition of a “close knit family”.
The point I am trying to make is this: Imagine you are a young boy or girl who has never truly been close to anyone but your own (undependable and not always there for you) mother. You have no roots, no real home, no family… Suddenly, your mother is taken away and you are whisked off to a place you are now told is your “home”. This “home” consists almost entirely of people of Greek decent within a small town community where everybody knows your name (everybody knows everybody’s name, for that matter). Suddenly, you find yourself being nurtured and loved by others and you’re given a place to finally put down some roots. How do you think you would handle it? I think that, much like Callie, I would be a bit overwhelmed and confused, to say the least.
Note: I myself am not Greek, nor was I kidnapped by my own mother, but I am an Air Force brat (who has never really stayed in any single location for more than a few years, nor do I really have contact with my own extended family) and I married into an Italian family; so I kind of understand Callie’s sudden “thrust” into a large family setting. Not to mention, I frequently visit Tarpon Springs, so I know quite a bit about how very “Greek” the community is. I know how overwhelming being put into such a place would be for someone more familiar with being a “loner”…
Callie reacts in many different ways in her new world, some of which I could totally get behind and accept, and others that, honestly, quite baffled me. At first, we learn very little about Callie’s experiences with her mother over the past ten years. We know that she has not had it easy, no doubt, but we do not know enough to fully understand why Callie reacts as she does early on. This may make some of the events early in the book – specifically when it comes to how Callie treats others and the matter of her sexual experiences – hard for some readers to swallow. But, when appropriate, little pieces of Callie’s past are brought to light and suddenly it all makes sense, or as much sense as can be made when it deals with Callie and her unfortunate upbringing, at least.
In spite of the bleakness of Callie’s past, there are so many moments of beauty within WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE. As the title implies, there is just as much light within these pages as there is darkness. You will often feel that Callie’s community is embracing you, the reader, just as they are embracing Callie. Some of my favorite characters include the tenaciously optimistic, Kat, as well as Callie’s yiayoula (grandmother). The goodness within these pages far outshine the badness.
While there is PLENTY of romance in WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE, and the leading man, Alex, is quite the “catch” (pardon the pun, you’ll get it when you read the book), I found that the book shone best when dealing with Callie’s personal issues. The fact that Callie must deal with the skeletons of her past is the driving emotional force within the book. Much like Travis from Something Like Normal, Callie has a lot that she must move past if she is ever to have a brighter future. Still, the romance is realistic, certainly not instantaneous, and some of the best scenes of the book include the interactions between Callie and Alex. He is a man that any girl would be lucky to find. The events surrounding a day of snorkeling late in the book will forever remain some of the most emotionally gripping scenes I have ever read in YA. Ever.
If only all girls who have no real family or home – those who have suffered just as much, if not more than, Callie – would be lucky enough to have the chance to be welcomed into at least one pair of open arms sometime in their lives. There is goodness in the world and WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE gives you hope that the stars really do shine for us all.