Just Finished Reading: Where the Stars Still Shine

Where the Stars Still Shine
by Trish Doller
Published on September 24, 2013
by Bloomsbury Children's

Connect with the author: website | Facebook | Twitter.

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley. Please see my full FTC disclosure on right sidebar.
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. 
My take: As a diehard contemporary/realistic fiction fan, sometimes I worry that this genre gets overshadowed by all the angst and drama and life or death stakes of all those paranormals and fantasies and dystopians. Then I read a book like Where the Stars Still Shine, and it reminds me of what's great about realistic, character-driven fiction: it captures all the beauty and sadness and messiness of life in a way that no other kind of story can manage.

Where the Stars Still Shine does have elements similar to other YA I've read, books like If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Schmidt and Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen that deal with parental abduction and/or life with an unfit parent, and then a character's attempt to adjust to a more "normal" life. And yet, while Callie's story does have some parallels to Carey's or Anna's or Ruby's, each girl's journey plays out differently.

The story opens as Callie, who's been living an itinerant life with her mother for over ten years, is discovered by the police and sent back to Tarpon Springs, Florida to live with her father. Everything about her new life -- rules and a house and a large family and a stable routine -- is completely foreign to her, and she's not sure she's on board with any of it. I loved that about this book. As in her debut book, Something Like Normal, Trish Doller has written a main character who feels completely real. Some fictional characters have a growth arc that seems to curve as perfectly as a rainbow. But real people mess up --  they backslide, they make choices that others can't understand, and they forget to learn from their mistakes. Callie was easy to relate to, and yet I never forgot that she'd never had any kind of a lasting relationship except with her mother, and that she'd lived through some really tough times.

Callie meets Alex as she's restlessly wandering on the esplanade one evening and they're instantly drawn to each other. This was insta-attraction, not insta-love -- neither of these two are interested in a relationship. Alex has family issues of his own and can't wait to leave Tarpon Springs and explore the world. But the two of them start meeting up in secret. While Where the Stars Still Shine is a YA book with YA themes, it does edge into NA territory, both due to the age of the characters (Callie is seventeen and Alex is twenty-one) and their sexual relationship, which is an important part of the story.

The characters and the setting in this book were standouts for me. Callie's father's family is part of a Greek-American community in Tarpon Springs. We meet Callie's yiayoula (grandmother) and her cousin Kat and learn about the local sponge industry. I also really loved the way Callie's mom was portrayed. She's deeply flawed, but also a woman who clearly loves her daughter even though she's failed her on multiple levels. Callie and her family have a lot of stuff to work out, and I loved that ending of the book was hopeful but didn't try to wrap everything up in a shiny bow.

Where the Start Still Shine was definitely a standout for me and I look forward to seeing what Trish Doller writes next!  I'm interviewing Trish tomorrow -- be sure to come back and check that out!


  1. Loved the setting as well, I haven't been immersed in the greek culture much.

  2. Unlike you, I didn't really enjoy this novel at all- I was quite a black sheep unfortunately. The main issue that I had was the MC (which is like what everyone loved... -.-)

    Fabulous review, Jen! <33

  3. I always worry that contemp gets outshone by the flashier fantasy, paranormal, and dystopias too. I like how you reference Uses for Boys because I definitely see some plot similarities and yet I liked this one so much more (was Callie drawn with more warmth? That's what I'm thinking.) I also thought this book edged into NA territory a bit

  4. I'm really, really dying to read this book. I ordered a copy on line but am resisting the urge to buy a Kindle copy. Bah.

    Anyway, can't fault a woman who had to resort to kidnapping her own daughter for whatever reason - unless it's for something heinous.

    Great review, Jen!

  5. Great review Jen! I'm eager to pick up this book out soon! I love how it's similar to Emily Murdoch's If You Find Me!

    Happy Reading

  6. Sounds like a great book. I too enjoy contemporary romance and find it hard to find a good recommendation with all the paranormal books to sift through. I enjoyed your review and may have to check this one out! Kinda reminds me of the Desert Rice series by Angela Scott. - Another great series about two teenage siblings who have to make a life off their own after their mother is killed... My review of Desert Rice is actually quoted in the banner and with the promotion of the 2nd book, Desert Flower.... if that tells you how much I like the book :) Great review!

  7. Awesome review!! This book sounds amazing. I still have to read and review it, but am really looking forward to it.

  8. Great review!!! I can't wait to read this book. Everybody keeps raving about it so I guess I shouldn't miss it. Thanks for sharing :)

    Sapir @ Diary of a Wimpy Teen Girl

  9. Awesome-tastic review, Jen! I really liked Callie as a character too. I loved that she was flawed, and I never really thought about it until you said to...but yeah. She had a fabulous character arc; one where she backslid sometimes and jumped two steps forward others. Lovely review, darling!

  10. ooh i love contemporary romance, and I'm so glad this one was great!! Great review Jen! I will be adding this to my TBR!
    - Farah @ MajiBookshelf

  11. I see this one pop up a lot! I'm totally intrigued. I love the sound of the premise, especially if it weaves in some Greek culture. ;)

  12. Awesome review! I want to read this book badly!!

  13. Great review Jen! So looking forward to this one! I loved Something Like Normal so this was an "auto-buy" for me. Loved the interview too :-)

  14. I loved this book so much--and I agree with everything in your review, Jen. I think it really showcases all the best things about contemporary YA, yet keeps the drama fromf eeling too overblown somehow (how does she do that? It makes me love her books all the more!) I can't wait to read the interview next:)

  15. I am so freaking excited to read this one. Really, really looking forward to it!

  16. I haven't read any of those similar books you've mentioned, but since I did really enjoy Where the Stars Still Shine, perhaps I should keep those in mind!
    I agree, Callie's story felt pretty realistic (despite it being so unlike anything I myself or anyone I know has experienced). It could happen. And I like how you labeled Callie and Alex's relationship as "insta-attraction." That's really what it was, and any deeper feelings developed slowly. It was an abrupt start to their relationship, but once again it felt realistic. Great review!

  17. Great review! I need to read this one. I know I won't like the sexual content, possibly, but it sounds like it's an authentic story and worth the read.


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