Review: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Friday, December 6, 2013
Title: Where the Stars Still Shine
Author: Trish Doller
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Published: September 24 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

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.

I fully admit I am the black sheep for this book. "Black sheep?" You say, "But you gave it 3.5 stars!" Yes, yes I did. Because even while I was a bit unsatisfied, Where the Stars Still Shine is still pretty good. Even when you don't love love it, you still kinda love it.

My issues with the story can be summed up in three bullet points:

  • Plot similarity to If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
  • The romance between Callie and Alex (aka her own stepuncle....)
  • The ease of the ending

Not too long before reading this, I read Emily Murdoch's excellent and moving If You Find Me. It's the sad tale of a young girl kidnapped by her mother, kept from her legal guardian (her father), who has a new wife and kids. The girl has to learn to be a part of a new family all the while wondering what happened to her mother and waiting to hear from her.

Does that sound familiar? Yeah. As I was reading the first few chapters, I really could not get past the how similar the two novels were.

Thankfully, after a while, Doller's tale takes a somewhat different turn than Murdoch's did. It focuses a lot on Greek culture and a really weird first love, whereas Murdoch's narrator Carey is less romantically inclined and younger, both acting and sounding. Trish Doller's taciturn Callie is a difficult protagonist. She isn't unlikeable, but she is hard to connect with for the early chapters. Eventually, as Doller allows more and more of her personality to shine through her self-imposed exile, she becomes a much more rounded character.

I liked Callie, and I liked Alex, her love interest. I just did NOT like them together. Once I found out that Alex was the brother of Callie's new stepmom, well, I mentally vomited. That is just....not alright. I wouldn't go so far to call it incest, but that is clearly an inappropriate relationship. They are close to one another in age, and it's not like he raised her, but if they got married, Callie's dad would be her own brother-in-law. Tell me that's not all kinds of fucked up.

Technically, for me, the plot was too predictable, and the ending was too simple. For the whole book Callie struggles with a central conflict, and then, at the end, it pretty much resolves itself. No mess, hardly any fuss, and the novel wraps up. The writing and the characters bear the weight of the novel and make reading such easily figured out plots more enjoyable. Where the Stars Still Shine is easily readable and very enjoyable for what it does well.

I don't know that I would reread this book in particular, but it did interest me in reading more of Doller's work. There is clearly promise for her writing and I'd be interested to see how her talent matures from here.

1 comment:

  1. Finally! Someone else who thinks that relationship is not right! So they're technically not related - but it would still make family dinners SUPER AWKWARD so it should not be encouraged. I don't remember - did the dad and stepmom voice their opinions on this relationship or did the book just end?

    I thought Something Like Normal was much better, so definitely give that one a shot.


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