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Book Review: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Callie’s mom stole her away from her large Greek-American family when Callie was just a little kid.  Since then, they’ve been on the run, and Callie has no sense of what a normal, stable life looks like.  She’s never had a home, never been to school, and has eaten most of her meals out of vending machines.  But when Callie’s mom finally gets arrested for kidnapping her, she’s sent back to live with her father and his new family.  At 17, Callie’s already done a lifetime of living.  But can she adjust to the new life–and new rules that come with it?  And if she does settle in, does that mean she’s abandoning her mom?

Trish Doller writes contemporary YA that is moving, authentic, and completely compassionate.  Readers looking for the best of what YA has to offer need look no further: this is it.  One of the best books of the year, Where the Stars Still Shine hooks you from the first page and doesn’t let go until you’re finished.  Callie is a memorable heroine, and Doller is an author to watch.

All of the elements in this heart-wrenching, riveting novel work well together, and much of that credit is due to Doller’s ability to create a vivid setting.  Set in a small coastal town in Florida, Doller imbues her cast of characters with a location that comes alive.  As Callie navigates her new life, she also learns about the place she would have grown up, had she not been taken away from it when she was so young.  Spending time on the docks, Callie and readers learn about sponge harvesting and the local fishing trades.  It’s all very real, and it gives the novel a strong sense of place.

The novel has a great, if sometimes frustrating, narrator in Callie.  Beautiful, smart, but very much jaded by the life she’s lived, she’s slow to warm up to people.  She makes a lot of mistakes and struggles–in a very real way–with how she feels about the loud, intrusive family she didn’t know she was missing all those years. 

It’s also worth mentioning that Callie’s father and stepmother are real characters with fleshed-out motivations.  The supporting characters in this novel come to life.  There are no flat stereotypes here.  Readers looking for complicated family dynamics won’t be disappointed.  Neither will readers looking for a steamy romance, because that’s here, too.

All in all, this is an emotionally resonant, satisfying read.  This is a standout sophomore effort from Trish Doller.  Required reading for YA fans.  I simply loved it.

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller.  Bloomsbury USA Children’s: 2013.  Purchased copy read for the Cybils.

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