Step into any bookstore and you’ll likely see adults of all ages perusing the YA shelves. It’s not just fantasy or dystopian novels that attract this wider audience but the work of a number of incredibly talented contemporary authors. Among them is Trish Doller, whose 2012 debut novel, Something Like Normal, received numerous accolades. Doller’s new book, Where the Stars Still Shine, is an engaging, compulsive read and a thought-provoking look at a family under duress.
Callie has been on the run with her mother for 12 years. After her mother’s marriage fell apart and she kidnapped young Callie, both became survivors. Callie’s idea of “normal” includes hanging out in a Laundromat when her mother has men over, never going to school, avoiding her mother’s friends who might abuse her, pursuing casual sexual encounters and leaving one nameless town for another at a moment’s notice. All that ends when her mother is stopped for a missing taillight and is arrested.
The next day, Callie is claimed by her father and flies with him to Florida, where she suddenly finds herself thrown into a new family with a father she barely remembers, a stepmother and two younger half-brothers. Family life in close-knit Tarpon Springs, especially in the extended Greek community, comes with rules, responsibilities and expectations (like letting your dad know if you stay out until all hours). All this is a difficult adjustment for Callie, who is used to fending for herself. She also finds that forging real friendships and romantic relationships presents challenges—and rewards—she never dreamed of in her previous nomadic life.
Callie is a complex, fully drawn character struggling to make sense of who she is when everything she has learned about the world is turned upside-down. Where the Stars Still Shine is a compelling coming-of-age story and a portrait of an extended family seeking to move forward and heal. Remember Trish Doller’s name the next time you’re looking for something simply marvelous to read.