By Trish Doller
Available now from Bloomsbury
Callie grew up on the road with her mother, picking up and moving every time she got scared. But when they get stopped by the police and Callie is sent to live with her father, it turns out she had a loving, stable family waiting for her. Callie struggles with her past and her future, where and who she wants to be.
WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE deals with some very difficult subjects. Trish Doller's writing, however, kept me turning the pages instead of weeping. It's not that molestation and the slow death of a parent aren't treated like terrible things. But when I read them, I knew that her characters could make it through. I felt very hopeful, reading WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE.
There were times when I wanted to shake Callie. She makes some terrible decisions. It's not even always that she doesn't know they're terrible at the time. And it's not that I didn't understand why she was making those decisions; Doller is terrific at showing what's going on inside Callie's head. It's just that I wanted Callie to have her happily ever after. But it can be hard to admit that you deserve to be happy and to do what you need to in order to be happy.
Then there's Alex, the older guy who Callie has an instant lust for. Major props to Doller for portraying that the character's initial attraction is not love and developing both their attraction and their emotional attachment. Their relationship is hot (WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE is aimed at more mature YA readers) and sweet. Alex is exactly the guy Callie needs - one who respects her boundaries and talks to her when things go wrong. And she's who he needs - willing to push his boundaries before he makes a mistake he might regret. His confidence in his dreams, and his distance from them, is a nice foil to Callie's uncertainty about what she wants.
And how great is the setting? It's a port town that attracts tourists, full of Greek people who are almost always somehow related to Callie. It's an intimate community, which is a big change for someone who grew up on the edges of society. I liked the difficulty of it all. And Callie's cousin, who wants to be her best friend but keeps messing it up, was great. Romantic relationships aren't the only tricky ones to navigate.
SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL marked Doller as an author to watch, and WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE confirms it. This is contemporary fiction done well. It's romantic, feminist, and hopeful. I don't know about you, but I'm up for round three.