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Where the Stars Still Shine Paperback – June 2, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up–Readers who appreciated the gritty realism tempered with romance in Doller's Something Like Normal (Bloomsbury, 2012) will welcome this book about a 17-year-old struggling to move beyond a traumatic past and find redemption. Callie was kidnapped at age five by her mother, Veronica, and both have been on the run ever since. Rootless and bouncing from place to place, the teen has become accustomed to loneliness. But when Veronica is finally arrested for her daughter's kidnapping, Callie's reunion with her father, Greg, is bittersweet. Left to her own devices all those years, she bristles at his attempts to establish a stable home environment and draw her into his close-knit family. He is part of a large Greek-American community in which everyone seems to know everyone and she is overwhelmed by it. Callie's competing loyalties to both parents prove trying as she grapples with creating friendships and fulfilling family expectations. Terrifying flashbacks also reveal that Callie was sexually abused as a child. She seeks solace in the arms of Alex, a local boy with a “ladies' man” reputation. Soon, their relationship develops from something steamy into enduring tenderness. Adding depth is the novel's stark contrast between Callie's itinerant, heartbreaking former life and her new one, suffused with warmth and Greek traditions. Doller gracefully handles complex issues including mental illness, parental neglect, and trauma in a respectful manner that will ring true to readers. A highly suitable choice for teens who enjoyed Erica Lorraine Scheidt's Uses for Boys (St. Martin's, 2013).–Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CAα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Callie has spent the past 10 years living like a fugitive, ever since her mother abducted her from her father when they divorced. During those years, their life was transient and came with a terrible price for Callie, who was molested by one of her mother’s lovers. But now her mother is awaiting trial for kidnapping and medical help for the personality disorder that caused her to bolt in the first place. Callie is reunited with her father and his large Greek family, and while they all want to welcome her back and help her adjust to normal life, Callie has no idea what constitutes normal—or if she even deserves it. A passionate (and explicit) affair helps Callie realize that she is worthy of love and capable of setting down roots. Callie is a remarkably well-adjusted young woman, considering all she has experienced. Her divided loyalty between her damaged mother and the promise of a new life with her father is realistically portrayed, beautifully written, and never feels contrived. Grades 9-12. --Kara Dean --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Seventeen year old Callie is back with her father after twelve years after she was stolen by her mentally ill mother. Scarred from the years of homelessness, physical and sexual abuse, she has difficulty relating to the family she has little memory of. Callie lies, breaks rules, and isn't very nice to her new friends and family. She finds a soulmate in a Alex, twenty-two year old sponge diver with a troubling reputation and they begin a secret romance. When her mother is released from jail on bond, Callie will have to decide whether to stay and build a life, or go back on the run.
Narrator Callie is, for the most part, unlikable and unsympathetic. I understood on an intellectual level, why she had such difficulty with people, but she behaved hurtful to people who just wanted to embrace her. Of course, the fact her father, Greg, never put her into therapy the minute he picked her up from the police station, the family didn't get counseling, and he received no direction on what to do when your daughter returns after being kidnapped didn't help. He also never had her checked out by a doctor. Was she up on her immunizations? Who knows? Although I liked Greg, he continually made bone-headed decisions. Your kidnapped daughter refuses to go to school, sure, that's ok. No problem. Too bad he doesn't ask any more questions or he'd have discovered she only had a kindergarten education. Callie was bright and well-read from frequenting libraries, but still. She wasn't homeschooled, she had no schooling.
WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE is best describing Callie's flashbacks and nightmares (in italic) which were both compelling and realistic. Trish Doller either did some great research or has personal experience with PTSD. Her research into sponges and the American-Greek culture were also quite good. I wish she had done more work on integration after kidnapping, as that was the heart of the story. Her writing was just okay, nothing memorable and almost no tension. At times the story slowed when Doller went into voluminous description of Greek food or sponges.
THEMES: kidnapping, reunification, family, Greek culture, romance
I'd neither recommend not dissuade readers from WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE, though I would say borrow, don't buy.
Trish is carving a place for herself in the world of contemporary fiction as an exceptional author who writes about situations that many of us hardly even dare to imagine in our normal, everyday lives - things that we only hear about from the news. What's more is that she is not afraid to take these already stark situations to even darker places and weave her ideas into realistic works of imaginative fiction that make you think. In Something Like Normal, Trish explores how a military man with PTSD deals with returning to a house that is something less than normal. In WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE, Trish ups her game by telling the story of a young lady who was never given the opportunity to live a "normal" life, having been on the run with her unstable mother for the past ten years. How Callie reacts when she is suddenly given the family she had been denied all those years will both amaze you and break your heart.
As I said before, one of the biggest selling points when I found out about WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE (aside from the fact that I adore the author and her previous work) was the fact that it takes place practically in my own backyard. While this fact alone may not be a selling point for you, the fact that Trish really couldn't pick a better setting - a setting that is as much a part of the story as any of the main characters (in fact, the location is like a character unto itself) - should be reason enough for me to address it. Tarpon Springs, Florida is one of (if not the) largest concentrations of Greek people in the United States. If you know anything about Greek families, they are usually large, highly cultural and set in tradition and, essentially, the prime definition of a "close knit family".
The point I am trying to make is this: Imagine you are a young boy or girl who has never truly been close to anyone but your own (undependable and not always there for you) mother. You have no roots, no real home, no family... Suddenly, your mother is taken away and you are whisked off to a place you are now told is your "home". This "home" consists almost entirely of people of Greek decent within a small town community where everybody knows your name (everybody knows everybody's name, for that matter). Suddenly, you find yourself being nurtured and loved by others and you're given a place to finally put down some roots. How do you think you would handle it? I think that, much like Callie, I would be a bit overwhelmed and confused, to say the least.
Note: I myself am not Greek, nor was I kidnapped by my own mother, but I am an Air Force brat (who has never really stayed in any single location for more than a few years, nor do I really have contact with my own extended family) and I married into an Italian family; so I kind of understand Callie's sudden "thrust" into a large family setting. Not to mention, I frequently visit Tarpon Springs, so I know quite a bit about how very "Greek" the community is. I know how overwhelming being put into such a place would be for someone more familiar with being a "loner"...
Callie reacts in many different ways in her new world, some of which I could totally get behind and accept, and others that, honestly, quite baffled me. At first, we learn very little about Callie's experiences with her mother over the past ten years. We know that she has not had it easy, no doubt, but we do not know enough to fully understand why Callie reacts as she does early on. This may make some of the events early in the book - specifically when it comes to how Callie treats others and the matter of her sexual experiences - hard for some readers to swallow. But, when appropriate, little pieces of Callie's past are brought to light and suddenly it all makes sense, or as much sense as can be made when it deals with Callie and her unfortunate upbringing, at least.
In spite of the bleakness of Callie's past, there are so many moments of beauty within WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE. As the title implies, there is just as much light within these pages as there is darkness. You will often feel that Callie's community is embracing you, the reader, just as they are embracing Callie. Some of my favorite characters include the tenaciously optimistic, Kat, as well as Callie's yiayoula (grandmother). The goodness within these pages far outshine the badness.
While there is PLENTY of romance in WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE, and the leading man, Alex, is quite the "catch" (pardon the pun, you'll get it when you read the book), I found that the book shone best when dealing with Callie's personal issues. The fact that Callie must deal with the skeletons of her past is the driving emotional force within the book. Much like Travis from Something Like Normal, Callie has a lot that she must move past if she is ever to have a brighter future. Still, the romance is realistic, certainly not instantaneous, and some of the best scenes of the book include the interactions between Callie and Alex. He is a man that any girl would be lucky to find. The events surrounding a day of snorkeling late in the book will forever remain some of the most emotionally gripping scenes I have ever read in YA. Ever.
If only all girls who have no real family or home - those who have suffered just as much, if not more than, Callie - would be lucky enough to have the chance to be welcomed into at least one pair of open arms sometime in their lives. There is goodness in the world and WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE gives you hope that the stars really do shine for us all.