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.
You’re going to get tired of hearing this soon enough, but Where the Stars Still Shine was — is — one of the best contemporaries I’ve read this year. This is my first book by well-known author Trish Doller (who also wrote Something Like Normal, released in 2012), and after getting utterly swept away by this one, I can assure you that this most certainly won’t be my last.
Summary: Callista, better known as just “Callie,” has never known much other than being always on the go with her paranoid mother. She and her mom are homeless, living on microwaveable food, and laundromats. Instead of knowing living skills, Callie has learned to wash her hair in sinks, teach herself basic knowledge from tattered books, and take care of herself when her mother can’t. Everything changes when her mom is arrested, and her father takes her and shows her what having a home and people who love her feels like. But will it be enough for her to let go of the past and live in the now?
Trish Doller really knows how to spin a story of love, family, and learning to move on from painful pasts. I know — it doesn’t sound like anything different from the other contemporaries out there, but here’s the thing: does it have to be? Well, I didn’t really think so. At least, not while I was reading the book. There is so much to love about Where the Stars Still Shine. The gritty writing, for example. Though it may seem like it at first, Callie isn’t your typical brooding teenager with a troubled past, who suddenly finds love in unexpected places. Her narration isn’t always depressing, and she doesn’t only harp over how horrible her life was before she got to Tarpon Springs (and trust me, she went through some pretty tough stuff). Callie’s narration was a balanced blend of everything — anger, bitterness, fear, and also love — and that’s what makes the story so utterly believable and captivating. I never wanted the book to end.
But this is Callie’s voice; what about her character? Despite our differences, Callie was a surprisingly easy character to connect and sympathize with. It’s one thing to make her likable. It’s entirely something else to make her come alive, turn what was once words on a page into something with flesh, organs, something that walked, talked, breathed, and lived. Throughout the book, whatever she went through, I felt for her. She may have had some bad qualities at first, but those things were easily overlooked because she was such a fitting protagonist for this story. If Callie turned out to be real, I wouldn’t have been surprised in the slightest.
The rest of the characters were just as beautifully brought to life, but I have to say that my absolute favorite was Alex Kosta, the love interest. And that’s saying something, because it usually takes a lot in order for a love interest to impress me and win my heart. But Alex. Alex. Jesus Christ, he was — I can’t even think of a word that would describe him right now. All I know is that I need someone like him in my life. He was flawed — and not just outwardly flawed, but inwardly as well. He had his own issues. He didn’t always understand Callie’s, and they went through rocky times because of that, but he was there for her, and he loved her despite her troubles. He was there when Callie couldn’t get used to life in Tarpon Springs.
He’s just. Perfection, okay?
One of my favorite contemporaries of all time, Where the Stars Still Shine will break your heart, mend it back, and then break it all over again. The only flaw I could find — and an incredibly minuscule one at that — was the ending, but that could’ve been just me (because at that time I was thinking all about
Alex Callie’s welfare). I finished this book within two days. That shows how much I loved it.
Who is this book for?
EVERYONE. Even if contemporary isn’t your thing, I still can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a must-read, for sure.