Review: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Reading Level: Young Adult, 13+
Pages: 352 (eARC)
Source: 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.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

It's hard going into a book with high expectations. I've loved Doller's previous novel so much that my hopes were set high with this one. And, unfortunately, I think that's what made this book slightly disappointing to me. Now, that's not to say I didn't greatly enjoy it. I did. But, in the end, I can't say this was her best work, in my opinion.

The story she paints in regards to Callie's struggles is strong. This girl doesn't understand relationships since all she has was her mother. She doesn't understand normality and friendship, proper food and money. Unfortunately, she does understand what it's like to be taken advantage of by a man. I think one of the most powerful plot points in this book for me was Callie's struggle with her past sexual abuse. Nobody would believe her and nobody was willing to understand, so she held everything inside until she burst. She dealt with it her own way and it led her down this path of destruction.

One of my biggest struggles with the book was her coping mechanism, which was to have a lot of sex. She got into the habit of being a sexual hit and run and relied too much on her sex drive for certain things. She internalized her problems and, at times, they'd appear when she found herself in sexual situations and she'd panic a little. I just didn't like this about her, at all. Especially because of how she met Alex. They ran into each other and there was this huge sexual charge between them after exchanging less then 10 sentences between the two of them. Then, the next time they run into each other it's completely unspoken yet entirely agreed upon that the first thing they do is have sex. This is not healthy, it's not a good way to start a relationship, and even with her past in mind the way they met bugged me. While I support the believability of lust at first sight over love at first sight, I did not like how Doller went about getting them together. At all. I found her commitment issues and constant questioning of things to be frustrating, though this could be attributed to Callie's lack of psychological help after enduring such a strange childhood.

On a positive note, I really loved Callie's family. Her father's a bit too lenient, but it's because he's adjusting to having his daughter back too. You can tell her truly loves her from the bottom of his heart. And Callie's step-mother isn't that bad either. Her worries about Callie being around her children are reasonable, and she, too, has a huge adjustment to make. Callie's little brothers were absolutely adorable and her grandmother was pretty kick-ass. But her best friend and cousin, Kat, was an entirely different story. This girl is so overemotional she reminds me of a hyperactive kindergartener that knows about sex. She got hurt over the stupidest of things and was a jealous individual. She has a huge heart, but she's so immature. Reign your emotions in, girl! I get the impression that she'd cry if a bug died on her windshield.

Alex is an interesting love interest. He genuinely cares about Callie and he's got demons of his own, but I can't say I entirely understand his demons. I'm still slightly confused about them. I know that he grew from them somewhat in the end, but the confusion was not at all enjoyable for me, despite how enjoyable he was. He has dreams and aspirations and he was a nice little touch to the story. I also adore the fact that he can admit when he's wrong. But I feel as if he is prone to overexaggeration at times, especially when he and Callie fight, and he forgives in unbelievable ways. After everything they've been through, I didn't enjoy the place where their relationship was left off at the end of the book, though it made the romance lover in me happy. It was too open and under-clarified. 

Watching Callie change and begin to understand the twisted relationship that she had with her mother was amazing as well. Her growth was superb, and I applaud Doller for being able to write such a realistic, heart-wrenching story. The disorders that Callie's mother suffered from were spot on, and that's what made aspects of the story so disturbing. Her mother alternated between two extremes and that's reflected greatly in the writing. Some scenes literally scared me because of this, but again, this is just a testament to Doller's writing.

In the end, I think that many people will enjoy this book because it is certainly powerful. I, however, did not love it as much as I initially hoped I would. I still adore Doller and her ability to tell a powerful story, but this is simply one of those relationships that wasn't meant to be. I'm still anxious to see what else she has in store for us. 

3.5 stars


Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation in exchange for this honest review. 


  1. This book sounds much more intense than I thought it was going to be. I'm not sure that it's the type of book that I'd love, but it does sound really interesting and like it touches on a lot of issues. Great review!

  2. I enjoyed reading your take on this book. I ended up being a bit more satisfied with it than you did, but I was not as content as many readers seem to be. My biggest issue was the lack of psychological help for Callie, although I do think it was a bit troubling that Callie and Alex's relationship basically started with sex. I think I can appreciate what Doller was trying to do there though - that at first Callie doesn't expect anything else from this guy she finds attractive, doesn't actually think she deserves anything else. And then they actually form a relationship and she comes to see her self-worth and all. I guess my problem with it is I didn't understand Alex's perspective enough to see why he'd go from wanting to randomly hook up with her to suddenly deciding she's his girlfriend. But I did like the current state of their relationship at the end, because it felt realistic. I'm sorry this felt a bit like a letdown, considering your expectations for this one, but at least there was also quite a few things you were able to enjoy from this book!

  3. Oh hey, Lili. I did not forget you. I'm just super behind.

    So. Words. I have them.

    Gahhhh, I loved that her coping mechanism was sex. I mean, super unhealthy obviously, but this is all she knew, and she's got both the compulsion and a severe dislike of sex at the same time because of the abuse and she's so fucked up and it was greaaaat. But I can see why people wouldn't like that.

    I hated Alex at first, but Doller made him work I think. Also, loved that everyone was Greek. And the grandma!

  4. I think I may be forever ruined for books like this one because of the incredible If You Find Me. That was something incredibly special, and the hardships were perfection and her struggles and her sisters struggles were so unbelievably believable. I don't know that I would ever read Where the Stars Still Shine, for one because of the subject matter, but if I do it will be hard pressed to match up to the magnificence that is If You Find Me. Thanks for your review!