Author: Trish Doller
Rating: ★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: 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.
I think this book was slightly over-hyped for me. While I did enjoy it, there were things that I didn’t really like and other parts that were just okay.
As most of you know, I am a HUGE fan of Robin Benway and her most recent book, Emmy & Oliver is a fav of mine (porb in my top 10 for 2015). So I was a little worried that I was going to compare this book to that book and kinda braced myself for it. I was really worried that I was going to feel like E&O was a rip-off of this. Thankfully I DID NOT. They are two totally different books with a similar concept (child abducted by a parent and stolen away for years only to be found and returned “home”). And this made me happy. (Even though I vastly preferred E&O)
In this book Callie KNOWS that her mother has basically stolen her. She twists Callie’s image of her father, and forces Callie to run around the country with her as they move from place to place whenever Callie’s mother feels like it. We aren’t sure until a bit later why her mother is doing this (she has borderline personality disorder and doesn’t take care of herself properly) and I just felt so bad for Callie. She loves her mother, but she doesn’t love the life they lead. Callie doesn’t go to school and spends her days wandering around whatever town they’re in: she goes to the library, walks the streets, hooks up with guys, hangs out at the laundromat. She’s not happy, but she does want to keep her mom happy.
One night while moving to a new state they get pulled over by the police and everything falls apart. Callie’s father, Greg, is called in from Florida and he takes her back to her childhood home, to a family she knows nothing about. And it’s not just any family, it’s a huge Greek family who wants to spend time with her. But she isn’t interested in them.
I loved the family aspect of this book. I loved how hard Greg tried to be her father and how he just didn’t know what to do with her. Callie did not try though, but that was to be expected. She’d left her mother and the only life she’d ever known and was just expected to participate and be the daughter and granddaughter and best friend that everyone had always imagined she would be. She’s cold and mean at times and I liked that she always realized when she was being that way and tried to make amends.
The romance was just… meh for me. It happened way too quickly and while I don’t mind sex in YA, this was very messy and complicated sex. I did like that, but at the same time I wish that Callie’s relationship with Alex wasn’t founded on sex. I didn’t like the way that they met and were instantly drawn to each other. It wasn’t instalove, but attraction, and I get it, but I didn’t really like it. Callie has always used sex as a way to escape and she’s always felt dirty afterwards. She’s also dealing with some trauma caused by an old boyfriend of her mother’s. So when I say that the sex is complicated, it is. And while I liked Alex and what he brought to the table in terms of helping Callie deal, I really didn’t like that they’d rush onto his boat during her freaking LUNCH BREAK FROM WORK to do it. Like come on.
I thought that the topic of child abuse (of the sexual nature) was an interesting one and I was so happy when Callie finally started to talk about her abuse. I wish that she would have talked to her father about it, but I can see how that would be difficult. I guess I would have loved it if she’d spoken to her step-mother about it and had a bonding moment. I did like that she finally confronted her mother about it and her mother’s true colors shone brightly. I know that the mother needed help, and that she wasn’t willing to help herself, but I wish that Callie would have come to the conclusion that she deserved better much sooner.
Overall this wasn’t a bad book, and there are plenty of people out there who are IN LOVE with it, but it wasn’t 100% for me. I loved the setting, the family dynamics, and how Callie began to work through her troubles. But the romance was dead in the water and pulled my rating down a bit.
I feel like I am going to echoing a lot of what my co-blogger said in this review. I’ve never read Trish Doller, but she is hugely popular with some of my friends that I trust, so it I was book I grabbed also immaculately when it released back in 2013. While I loved the majority of the story, I think this book might have been over-hyped for me and the romance was something I was looking forward to and admittedly, it didn’t work for me.
I actually really enjoyed Callie as a heroine for the most part. Her voice was easy to fall into, her story of being stolen and living her life feeling like a no one — it really broke my heart. When she is forced to go live with a father whom she hasn’t seen in several years, you can’t blame her for a lack of excitement. I loved her blended family though, as you could see how hard Greg and Phoebe were always trying, always wanting her to feel like Callie matters. Part of me wanted to smack her because she has it so good, and yet I understand why at first she was so desperate to pull away — Callie doesn’t know any better. Still, she is loved by these people, and quite unconditionally.
When the book revolved around Callie’s family, her past and her self-identity, that was when the book and I truly connected. I wanted to know more about her upbringing, her unfortunate molestation, and when you put all the pieces together, it’s no wonder why she struggles to have self-worth. She at first doesn’t want to improve her life, and it’s no wonder why her initial relationship with Alex is sex-based. However, Alex didn’t work for me one bit.
For the most part he felt like a very flat love interest. Callie’s cousin Kat makes him out to be this super sleazy, somewhat suspicious guy, but he doesn’t have much of a personality to speak of, and what is there just wasn’t my type. I think what bothered me is how long he allowed the relationship to purely be sex based, and how he didn’t seem to understand when Callie didn’t want to do something. I mean, I love the idea of how messy their relationship is (Alex is related to Phoebe soooo that isn’t good for a starts!), but it’s founded and grounded on sex, and Callie spends so much of the novel using sex to validate her self worth to this guy and while I am sure this happens, it made me cringe at times because Alex didn’t have a lot of personality to work with. Eventually Alex gets better and wants to help Callie, but their relationship for the majority of the book is make-outs, sex, lather, rinse, repeat. I need more than this, admittedly. I just wish I had a connection to him because I feel like I should have been able to root for him and Callie, but instead I felt this weird suspicion about him that just never allowed me to connect.
I also didn’t like how Callie’s abuse was ignored for good chunk in the middle of the book. It seems so important in the beginning and in the ending, but there’s moments where you almost feel like it should be impacting her more than it’s portrayed? I feel like if someone is suffering from sexual abuse, that it would be something constant, always there, lingering, and it wouldn’t make relationships of any kind simple. I think how Doller concludes the novel and resolves what happens to Callie is exceptionally done, and I loved the ending, especially when Callie confronts the person who stole a large part of her self-worth. The resolution was completely worth getting to.
I think Where the Stars Still Shine is a very enjoyable contemporary read from start to finish> Even though I had some problems with it, when the book focused on Callie and her family, I was completely hooked. Doller’s writing is so beautiful and thoughtful, and I am definitely going to check her other books out. I think if I had gone into this one blind without the hype, I might of had a different perspective, but overall I found it to be a good page-turner in the end.