Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
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.
Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.
What I Thought:
I went into this not really knowing ANYTHING about the storyline or plot. I didn’t read that slab of description within the front flap of the dust jacket. I almost did but decided,
“Nah, I want to just dive in blindly and see how it goes.”
It was a pleasant surprise. I read the first 122 pages the first night. I was sucked in. I really liked Trish Doller’s approach. It was real. Now, some of you are going,
“Uh, Des…duh, that’s what contemporary is.”
Hey, Hey! Simmer down the attitude *winks* I admire her writing. There isn’t fluffy, or pretentious language (and people who do write with fluffy words or pretentious, intellectually dripping, talking like a Gilmore Girl’s language, well a lot of them do it well, so I’m not knocking it. Especially indie writers driving an indie story, many of those stories are brilliant, so don’t get me wrong here).
There reason I admire Trish Doller’s writing is because she writes REALLY well. I admire it because I am not a fluffy, intellectual, Gilmore Girl talking witty type writer–I wish, but I’m not. I aim to write well. Plainly. Just tell the story and paint it well through words.
She did that here. There were sensitive issues involving sexual abuse at a young age. Our MC narrates, first person, present tense, through these moments where she reflects her being affected by these past memories and pain.
Here’s what I found interesting and liked; Trish didn’t focus on the time of the abuse, or the process of the main character’s years where she was stolen from her family–all the things presented to you within the synopsis isn’t the story. The story takes place during a time in Callie’s (our main character) life AFTER all these things. Trish brilliantly intertwined Callie’s past through her present moments without needing to take us all the way back and live it with Callie.
This story tugs at your heart in many ways; love, ache, anger, sadness, *Feels*, blushing…
It was a beautiful story leaving you wanting more. I would definitely recommend reading.
Check out her Book Review here
Memorable Moments Tabs!
(here begin the SPOILERS! You have been warned *grins*)
Tab #1 – (pg 10) I Relate to Callie!
So from the beginning, you are painted clearly Callie’s reality. She has a deadbeat Mom who makes bad decisions–especially with men–and is being dragged as a teen through this tumultuous rollercoaster called her mother’s life. Now, personally I can not relate. Then comes page 10 and I have a moment where I connect with Callie. And I wonder, if I were in her situation, would these little things be my little things as well.
When Callie runs back to the momentary apartment they are living in to escape one of her mother’s creepy, perverted boyfriends who finds her at a laundry mat,
she finds her mother frantically packing–once again. She has two minutes to pack her life in a suitcase and get into the car for them, once again to escape to a new place, new city, new life. It’s her mother’s pattern.
It’s the things she packs that caught my attention. She’s a reader–yay–and she packs mostly books, a journal that’s stuffed and has papers sticking out from the sides–I love that!
I have boxes of journals that I have kept since little. I always aimed to have one of those, where you put your life in them so they’re overflowing with many knickknacks, poems, pictures and papers.
She packs maybe three articles of clothing–ha! I would do. Let’s just say I have staple comfort pieces. Ask my besties and my mom. They conspire together constantly to steal them and burn them.
Then she reaches for something that surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it from her character. A guitar. An old rosewood and spruce Martin guitar. I have one as well. Someone once anonymously gave me that Martin (that’s another story for another day) so it’s very special to me. My attention from here on out was peeked asking,
“Who is this Callie character?”
Tab #2 – (pg 24) “My name is Callista?”
How sad is that?! Omygoodness. Callie all her life was told by her mother that her father left them. Her father was painted the villain. Her mom ends up arrested and her legal guardian is her father. She meets him for the first time, well since she was five years old. She’s seventeen right now and remembers nothing about this man, Greg, who shows up and takes her off to Tampa to live with him. Her mother stays arrested in Chicago.
During the flight, her father shows her a red leather photo album he had put together for her to have. Her birth certificate is in it and it says her full name…which she did. not. know.
Callista Catherine Tzorvas.
“My name is Callista?”
Greg’s chuckle dies in his throat when he realizes I’m not joking. “You didn’t know.”
I shake my head and his eyebrows pull together.
My heart ached a bit there and felt a little of what I can imagine Greg, her father felt. How could she not even know her full name is Callista. Here you really begin to see what living the life she has, on the run with her mother looked like. The lies, or selfish omissions her mother never cared to worry about or focus on, because it was always about her.
Tab #3 – (pg 33-34) Her Haunting Dreams
Oh my heart. This was so sad to witness, really. Callie’s living in an Airstream mobile home they (her father and his family) have out back. She falls asleep crying and has a dream. One of many that occur throughout the story. This was difficult, realizing what this poor girl has been through. Here was a brilliant way Trish Doller gave us a piece of Callie’s past, without needing to have taken us there from the very beginning, or making the story about that in a current setting.
In Callie’s dream, a man, whose breath is tangy with alcohol sits on her eight year old bed and whispers in her ear as he is sexually abusing her. Even right now, just half-re-reading it (cause I just can’t fully read it again right now) I want to find Frank (her mother’s live-in boyfriend at that time) and Lorena Bobbitt him!
She doesn’t even allow herself to cry for fear that he’ll cuddle her against him, kissing her cheeks, telling her she is his special girl.
Ugh, my chest is tight from how awful this is. Then she wakes up with tears and sweat, wondering where she is.
Tab #4 – (pg 40) Enter Alex Kostas…
kinda…here enters a mystery that leaves you wanting to know more…as it does with Callie.
Callie ventures off to explore because her emotions are all over the place. It’s night time. She’s used to her mother working nights, and being left alone. Now she suddenly has a father, and two baby brothers and a stepmother? A father who in his mind, logically has rules and practicality. These are all enigmas to Callie.
She reaches this river front lined with rows of fishing boats, their decks heaped with dark mounds of something she can’t identify. They’re sponges from deep within the seafloor.
Standing beneath the light, a guy around my age–no, probably a little older…He has a blue bandanna tied around his dirty-blond curls, and when he bends down for another sponge, there’s a sweat-stained spot on his gray shirt where it sticks between his shoulder blades. He glances up, and his face is something so fine and beautiful, it makes my chest ache the way it does when I hear a sad song or finish a favorite book.
(loved that last line)
They exchange some back and forth and this mystery guy on a boat just offers to go get a beer and give her the behind the scenes version of what he’s doing instead of the brochure tour version. Callie feels the air so thick between them and doesn’t understand why. They don’t know each other. She doesn’t even know his name.
He’s only the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and I’m so, so tempted. But I also know how this ends. And after everything that’s happened in the past two days, I’m not sure I want to add feeling like a slut to my to-do list.
OMG…so apparently, directly from Trish Doller’s Pinterest board while she wrote the novel…here’s is her Alex inspiration. *drools* “Uh, hello.”
Tab #5 – (pg 84-86) Rocking the Boat Therapy?
Whoa. So, didn’t see that coming.
Callie was introduced to her Big. Fat. Greek…Family? Suddenly this girl on the run with her deadbeat mother, all her life from one day to another has a father, little brothers, a step mother, a grandmother, cousins, and aunts and oh-my-lanta that is overwhelming. In the midst of sudden-family overload, Callie overhears some of her aunts trash talking about Callie’s mother and how she is sick mentally, and crazy.
This throws Callie over the edge so she sneaks out of her own welcome home party. She finds herself naturally walking to the boat docks. Alex went out for a few days on the boat to harvest sponges. She’s at her bench, that she’s become comfortable with, just in front of the boats, across the sponge shop she started working at.
They officially meet. He flirts and teases that if he knew she’d be waiting for him, he would’ve told her he wouldn’t be back for a few days. She bites back that she wasn’t, he just got lucky. Well, immediately he leads her to his boat and down below, where he pretty much lives. She knows she should hesitate but her mind is in her routine mode. She wants to escape, and a guy, whether it’s a Danny, a Matt, an Adam, Alex who she just found out his name, will just be another on the list–so she thinks.
Callie and Alex’s moments together are very much New Adult genre, rated R material. I was not expecting that. But then, something else was very surprising.
During a few of their “moments” together, there’s a pause. Alex does something that triggers Callie’s past “Frank” traumas. Right when you’re blushing, as Alex and Callie get to…um, know each other more, your heart stops and hurts for Callie. You want to Lorena Bobbitt Frank all over again for what he did to Callie at eight years old.
I won’t mention all the tabs where Alex and Callie, well…make me blush but there is a theme that happens here.
Throughout what you think is just a physical thrill between these two, Alex slowly–without knowing–chips away at the wounds that haunt Callie. He’s so patient and gentle with her during these moments where she freaks out without explanation. He doesn’t ask. He just helps her through it, or cooperates with her even though he doesn’t momentarily understand what’s behind it.
Finally, it isn’t until their first official date together (near the end of the book, before that, it was stolen secret moments together; on his boat, in her “room”, on the kitchen counter–just a makeout–with her father and step-mom in the other room! Freaking out they’d get caught moment much?)
Oh and yeah, especially since we find out that…ALEX IS PHOEBE’S BROTHER. Phoebe, Greg; Callie’s father’s WIFE! Aw-kwardddd.
So page 277, while laying on Alex’s lap in his truck, after their beach venture,
she falls asleep and has another haunting Frank dream. She wakes screaming, having a fit and Alex almost swerves off the road.
Moment of truth time. She tells him everything. I love Alex here. I love how angry and protective he becomes. He’s pacing and thinking of all the ways he can kill a man. I love him here.
Tab #6 – (pg 104) “Every girl needs a string of these for her room” Twinkle Lights.
I loved Kat and Callie’s friendship. In the beginning, Kat drove me crazy sometimes, only because I’m more like Callie with personal space. Kat’s so extroverted and no boundaries but you just love her and she wins your heart, just like she did for Callie.
This moment with her made me smile because I believe Kat’s motto here.
They’re in her Airstream mobile home room and Kat takes out a box of tiny white star-shaped Christmas lights.
“Every girl needs a string of these for her room,” she says. “Not only are they beautiful, but when you have fairy lights, you’re never completely in the dark.”
This was a sweet moment that won my heart over to Kat and her thrusting-best friendship towards them.
Tab #7 – (pg 194) Can I just say, Yiayoula. Love. Her.
Her Greek grandma. Yeah, she’s awesome. Just when you think she’s just a naive, kind, old grandma, she spits out some sass! Then, she reveals, that she isn’t as oblivious as you think she is. I don’t want to write out this scene because reading it in context makes it that much better. Seriously had some “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” flashbacks here. Love it.
I did love the writing. I admired Trish Doller’s approach to such a sensitive subject. I loved the flow and pace of this story. I loved the father, daughter relationship that developed–definitely one of my favorite elements of this story. I loved Alex and Callie and their crazy, very quick relationship that grew in beautiful depth…then…it ended. The book ended and left an open ending.
I finished, closed the book and thought,
“Wait. No, wait. That’s it? No, I need more. Don’t…leave it for me to figure it out Trish!”
I knew I needed to sleep on it. I understood that, to be true to Callie and Alex and the rest of the story and characters, it would need many more chapters to give me what I wanted.
My hope was that there would be an Epilogue that could still leave some elusiveness in the air but I wanted more closure.
I ran across a book review-book talk today of this book. It was by accident, because I was searching for images relevant to this book. The only reason I knew about Trish Doller’s pinterest was through this book blogger’s review which I really enjoyed.
Check it out here:
By Flyleaf Review (thanks Heather R!)
She mentioned feeling the same way and then finding Trish on Twitter and discussing it with her and some other friends. After doing so, she felt better and understood the ending more.
I am not going to say the ending cause I don’t want to spoil it.
It was a great book. I truly enjoyed it and loved her writing style very much. I’m definitely planning on checking out her other books.
So there it is! Apologies if this is really long. If you’re in the mood for a Contemporary YA/New Adult (for me) that has sexy romance, a lot of heart and a beautiful story of finding yourself, your worth and believing finally that you are worthy and deserve more in life and it’s okay to believe in yourself, then definitely check this one out!
Happy Reading everyone!