Like Trish Doller's debut novel, Something Like Normal, Where the Stars Still Shine is a gritty, contemporary young adult novel favouring realism over fairy tale.
Barely able to remember her father, Callie believed her mom when she told her that their life on the run was necessary to protect them from him. So when her mother's lies are finally revealed, and her father reclaims Callie after twelve years, she is overwhelmed both by what she has lost, and gained. Now Callie has the opportunity to lead the normal life she has always dreamed of but can she let go of the past to create a future?
I really like the way in which Doller portrays Callie's conflicted thoughts, emotions and behaviour in a realistic manner. After twelve years of a transient lifestyle, Callie isn't sure she is capable of adjusting to the expectations of her father and her extended family. Callie battles feelings of self doubt, confusion and anger every day, almost afraid to hope that her life can now be different but wants to fit in despite often feeling overwhelmed by the change in her situation.
Callie also keenly feels the loss of her mother. Reconciling her anger with her love for her mom is difficult for her, not only is she now aware of what was lost when her mother took her, she is still dealing with her mother's failure to protect her from abuse. Learning that her mother is mentally ill complicates the issues of blame and betrayal.
While settling in to her new life is made easier by Callie's father's compassion and understanding and her friendship with Kat, it is her unconventional relationship with Alex that gives Callie confidence and perspective.
Where the Stars Shine is an emotional story of family, community and love and I was touched by Callie's challenging journey to find her way home.