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Thursday, September 26, 2013

'Where the Stars Still Shine' by Trish Doller

From the BLURB: 

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.

For Callie there’s the road and her mum and not much else. They bounce from place to place, sometimes they rent apartments, once they slept in a vacant model home and the occasional backseat of a stolen car has not been unheard of. For the last ten years, Callie’s life has been directed by her mother’s paranoid whims. When Veronica gets an itch or starts to think people are following them, she packs them up and moves them on. Some things remain the same; like the dive-bars and bad men her mother attracts, like moth to a flame. 

It didn’t always used to be this way, but 17-year-old Callie has the barest memories of a life before, and an evil-eye bead she hides from her mother. Though evil still found Callie while they were staying in Oregon, so it didn’t do her much good.

When Veronica gets the itch to move on again, it’s just more of the same for Callie . . . and then a trooper pulls her mum over, for stolen plates of all things. But once at the police station kidnapping charges from ten years ago trumps the stolen plates, and Veronica faces a lengthy jail sentence. 

Something very different is ahead for Callie though, when her father flies to Chicago to take his baby girl home to Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Greg is Callie’s father (really Callista Catherine Tzorvas) he and Veronica had Callie when they were just teenagers, and once Veronica got wind of the plans Greg’s parents had to obtain full custody of Callie while he was away at college, Veronica took her and ran. And has been running until now, ten years later.

Callie suddenly finds herself inserted into a big Greek family, and Greg’s new one – complete with a wife called Phoebe and two little boys called Joe and Tucker who are Callie’s half-brothers. There’s also yiayoúla Georgia, a grandma who has desperately missed her girl. Not to mention Callie’s cousin, Kat, who declares herself her long-lost best friend.

It’s all so overwhelming for Callie, and despite learning the extent of her mother’s betrayal, she still misses her even in the face of this new life and old family she’s gained.

It’s not until Callie meets Alex at the sponge docks, a devastatingly handsome diver, that she finds some semblance of calm in the storm of her new life. Alex is a safe harbor for her, when it feels like her life is spinning madly out of control.

‘Where the Stars Still Shine’ is the new contemporary young adult novel from a hot new talent in the readership, Trish Doller.

I fell for Trish Doller and her gritty teen stories with debut novel ‘Something Like Normal’, which absolutely bowled me over. Since then I've been desperately awaiting the release of her next book; a wait that was made harder by Doller’s phenomenal Tumblr and Pinterest pages where she amasses photographic inspiration (and teasers!) for her upcoming works. So even before ‘Stars’ came out, I had a fairly good inkling that it would be something special from the picture-trail alone . . . and I was not disappointed (the other giveaway? A blurb quote from Melina Marchetta). 

The story is fast and frenetic, with Doller throwing both Callie and readers into the deep-end and back to her family within the first two chapters. I loved this fast pace, because it means readers are as tumbled by the events as Callie herself. There’s a definite sense of overwhelming as we’re introduced to her big Greek family, her dad’s new family and even as she gets to know the father she can’t remember. But pretty soon memories assail her, and she learns just how much damage Veronica left behind when she took Callie away from this family;  

I pick up the owl. Some of the patches are worn so thin you can almost see through them to the stuffing inside. 
“You used to carry him everywhere,” he says. “You called him– ” 
“Toot.” It’s just a tiny flash of a memory, but I remember making sure he was with me every night before I went to sleep. “I thought that’s what owls said.” 
I can see the bitter blurred in the sweet of Greg’s smile. All these years I've had very few memories, while he– he’s had nothing but. 

Because the pace is so quick and Callie is inundated with so much, it also makes sense that the love interest enters the scene rather quickly too. Alex Kosta is a sponge diver who Callie meets on the docks one night when she runs away from the claustrophobic family atmosphere. Their attraction and heat is instantaneous, and while it throws Callie off-balance, Alex also becomes someone she can run to when everything else gets too much. 

It’s through Alex, and Callie’s intense feelings for him, that Doller explores the darker side of Callie’s stolen childhood. Veronica was not a stable parent, and she let men into Callie’s life and put her in danger (though not deliberately) . . .  one such man was Frank, from Oregon, who Callie still has nightmares about. Thoughts of him and what he did make her feel unclean and unworthy when her attraction to Alex explodes. Doller explores this with infinite care and patience that adds a vastly more fascinating aspect to Callie’s returning.

I will say that, for me, this story was all about the family. I loved that Callie was expected to just fall back into this life she should have been living for the last ten years – but her experiences and the history Veronica gave her mean she fights this family and new life all the way. I loved that; it was so brutal and frustrating, but utterly believable.  

And it’s probably because I saw the family as being the real heart of the story that I sometimes wished we’d had less of Alex (hottie diver he may be) and had Callie spending a smidge more time with Greg, her half-brothers and especially her yiayoúla (who was hoping to have full custody of Callie when she was a baby). Even Phoebe, I thought, had a little more story in her when it’s revealed her history with Greg – I wanted to know how she felt about Veronica and Callie coming back into their lives. Don’t get me wrong, Alex is a fantastic leading man (with troubles of his own) and he’s good for Callie . . . but a family can be a love story too. 

I also adored the setting. Tarpon Springs, Florida, is a real place and in the words of Liz LemonI want to go to there. Doller really bought this town to life for me, and with interesting dimensions – I loved seeing it through Callie’s eyes as she wonders how different she would have been, had her childhood played out in this idyllic little town. 

‘Where the Stars Still Shine’ is Trish Doller’s second book after her phenomenal debut. With it, she delivers another gritty and heart-soaring story that cements her place as one of the most popular new young adult authors. If there was ever any doubt this second book confirms that Doller is one author who should definitely be an automatic-buy from here on in.



  1. This book sounds a lot like "If you find me" by Emily Murdoch.

  2. This sounds so amazing. I can't wait to read it.

  3. I'm only peeking at your rating because I haven't had a chance to write my review yet, but I'm glad to see you enjoyed this. I liked it a lot, too. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  4. I bought Something Like Normal b/c it got such rave reviews, but haven't read it yet. Now I want to read it AND get this book...


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