Thursday, August 7, 2014

Throwback Thursday Review: Where The Stars Still Shine

Author: Trish Doller
Goodreads Rating: 3.5
Pages: 352 Pages
Format: Finished Copy

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.

Where The Stars Still Shine felt warm and toasty to me, like curling up under covers on a chilly Fall day. The kind of feeling that raises goose bumps, but not enough to make you too uncomfortable. It was impossible for me not to have this feeling, as I flew through the book, yearning to know more of Callie’s story. Even when we were confronted with the horrible truth of Callie’s past, I felt so at home with Trish Doller’s prose and overall beautiful writing that I never wanted to stop reading.

That’s not to say that I don’t wish some things were different. I know that trauma is different for everyone but I really hoped for some closure for Callie in some of what she went through. And the ending, while nearly perfect, didn’t feel like closure to me. Telling Alex about what Frank did to her was a big step and very important. But I think that her relationship with her father, Greg, was left hanging because there was so much that he wasn’t aware of. I think he deserved to know a little more about Callie’s past and Callie deserved to tell so she could get the help she deserved.  I wish we had more time to see that. The end of the novel felt rushed. There was so much going on---between her mother’s attempted overdose, Alex’s mother’s death and their reconciliation---that I didn’t have much time to process everything. There was such a build up to all of this that I would have liked more time at the end to see everything finally settle. Maybe, it’s just because I was unwilling to let things go that I yearned for a different ending but I had hoped for more time with certain aspects of the story and I’m not sure we got them.

That being said, I think that this novel was a very realistic take on trauma and parental loss. Trish Doller dealt with Veronica Quinn’s mental illness, her crimes and imprisonment with poise. Callie is in an impossible situation, one not of her own making or control, and yet we see her struggle with it and deal with it in a very genuine way.  At times, I wanted her to realize that her mother was sick earlier and sooner in the novel and that she needed to tell her father, Greg, immediately about her past and the trauma she suffered. But it wouldn’t have been authentic if she did.

Callie needed to grow and I think from the time she was discovered in the passenger seat of a stolen vehicle to the end of the novel, she definitely grew. It was satisfying to see her start to realize her self-worth, that she could tell her mother no and that she could begin to want and deserve things. For many children of broken homes, this can be a real struggle and I think it was very important and telling that Trish Doller included this aspect in the books. While I said earlier that I didn’t love the ending, I do understand that everything couldn’t have been exactly wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end. It’s important to make characters not perfect Mary Sue carbon copies of reality. Callie was such a wonderful character because she was not any of that. She didn’t have a perfect life or perfect coping skills. She had flaws and that’s why her journey was so moving. And her resiliency was something to be admired and her journey all the more interesting to read.

I think Callie’s relationships were also written realistically. It doesn’t make sense for a kidnapped girl to suddenly assimilate into a strange town with unfamiliar people. I really loved that she tried. Callie’s heart and kindness, despite what she had been through was so endearing and powerful to me. I love resilient characters and Callie was just a fantastic example of one.

Another important aspect of a story to me is the world that the character lives in. Does the novel seem like the landscape the character is in stops existing once the character leaves a space? The answer in Where The Stars Still Shine is no. Tarpon Springs was very well described and it bustled and flowed like I imagine a Florida coast town would. And it was populated with interesting and true characters, even if they weren’t the main few. One of my favorites was Callie’s father. I believed Greg’s story and really enjoyed his interactions with his daughter. I also loved Kat and Georgia. I felt like this is how real people would react if an estranged and long lost family member was returned. It was very believable and that made the story even more enjoyable.

 Of course this review wouldn’t be complete without writing about Alex. I love how complicated he was. I love how this was not just a simple story of seemingly broken girl meets boy and suddenly is whole again. I love how protective he was of her when he found out about her past but that didn’t suddenly make her “cured.” This novel could have been so different if all that happened and I’m so glad it didn’t.

I also wanted to mention how much this novel made me fall in love with little beach towns. I wanted to sit on that bench in front of the docks in Tarpon Springs with Callie. I wanted to visit the gift shop and bookstore. It all sounded wonderful. Trish Doller took a real place and wove it perfectly into the story. It was a really great setting for this novel. I thought it fit well with the story.

Overall, I think this was a fantastic novel and cannot wait to read Trish Doller’s other books. I’m sure they are just as good as this.

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