October 30, 2013

Review: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Where the Stars Still Shine
Author: Trish Doller
Release Date: September 24th, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Page Count: 308
Source: eARC from NetGalley
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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

As a small child, Callie is abducted by her slightly unhinged mother after her parents divorce. Now, about a dozen years later, Callie's returned to her father and his new family. Because of a stolen license plate. Pretty crazy, huh? Anyway, back in Florida, Callie must readjust. Instead of living on the run with her mother, she now lives in a house with a father, step-mother and two step-brothers. And a whole cast of relatives who always seem to be hovering. All the while there's this cute boy, Alex, who has his own family issues, and the mommy-issues Callie can't seem to escape. Literally. Y'know, since her mom's been brought back to Florida to face kidnapping charges.

Let's break this down:

I love so very much about this book. So much.

So before I get into what I love, I'm just going to discuss the one thing I didn't love so very much.

When we first meet Alex, Callie comes dangerously close to jumping down his pants. But she doesn't. Which I liked because Alex is our gorgeous love interest apparent and I don't like when the protagonist and love interest hook up first and get to know each other later. But then the second time she meets him they do hook up. And when I say hook up, I mean hop into bed together and do it. It's a little insta-love-y (even though he is gorgeous), but that's not my issue. My issue goes back to me not enjoying the serious love interest of the book and the protagonist getting that physically involved right away.

Now, that's a personal issue, but I think a lot of people might feel the same way I do about that one issue, so I thought I'd put it out there.

I do think, however, that Callie and Alex are very much the kind of people to hop into bed and do it at first glance. I mean, I don't know much about victims of sexual assault (yeah, another warning, there's child molestation in this book) but I could imagine that sleeping with lots of people could be one direction someone in Callie's situation might go. So it's realistic, it was just a little too harsh for me?

That part of Callie and Alex's relationship aside, I love the two of them. So much. Their relationship is so very complicated and it's so very clear that they've met each other at the exact right moment in time to help each other. Which is amazing and fantastic. I'm not sure they're the couple that ends up getting married, but that's not really the point. Because most people don't get married to the first person they have feelings for. I feel like not enough YA books acknowledge that but this one does and I thank it (and Trish Doller) for highlighting such an important idea. (For teens and adults alike. Disney did a number on all of us, I'd say.)

Now, I don't just love Callie and Alex as individuals and as a couple. I also really enjoy both of their family dynamics. Callie's old family, her mother, brings a lot of complications both because she's in trouble with the law, but also because she kidnapped her daughter and made her live this terrible life. And then Callie's new family - her father's whole entire family - is completely foreign to her but somehow expect her to slip right back into her old role. It's one giant tug of war and it's all pretty stressful for Callie who's always kind of had to raise herself and, well, ugh. Ugh.

And Alex. He has his own family issues that Callie gets wrapped up in because, well, small community, and it's really heartbreaking to watch Callie deal with her issues, his issues and her relationship with him. As well as how Alex deals with what he knows. Because he never really knows the full picture what with Callie and all her lies by omission.

Basically, there are a lot of lies, issues and feels in this book. It's honestly really sad. Sometimes you want to shake Callie. Sometimes you want to kick everyone out of her life and give the girl a second to figure everything out. And, more than anything, you want everything to be okay for her at the end of it all.

The long and short of it?

Plot: Emotional and harsh. The reality here is so painful but such a fantastic read.
World Building: I believe Callie's mom would kidnap her. I believe that's how she would get caught. And I believe every word that happens after that. So, basically, solid world building here.
Character Development: Not only is Callie's character growth in this one remarkable and fantastic, but everyone else around her seems to shift ever so slightly around/behind her. As a result of her return? The domino effect here is brilliant.
Prose: Lovely and haunting, just like Callie's story.
Would I Recommend This Book?: This book is a little issue heavy. I'm not usually so into that, but everyone I know loved it so much and I liked the summary, so I gave it a shot. I wasn't disappointed. Yeah, there are some mature themes thrown in there that made me a little uncomfortable, but I think that was the point. So if you're looking for a contemporary issue book with strong with well developed character and strong family values that'll make you feel a little uncomfortable, this is the book for you.

Do you guys love Alex and Callie as much as I do? Maybe it's the family situations you like best. Or maybe you haven't read this one yet. In which case I'd like you think about reading that instead of reading this. But only once you've told me your thoughts in the comments below!