Where The Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Publish Date: September 24, 2013
Find it here: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N
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. (from Goodreads)
My Thoughts: I hardly know what to say when it comes to Trish Doller, but I know that in this I am not alone. When I read Something Like Normal last year – and every time I’ve read it since the first – there’s been something about it that I can barely put into words, although I’ve tried that before. Trish Doller has this way of writing a story so that you want to crawl into the book and just BE THERE. The characters come to life; their joys and their pains and their emotions and their sorrows and their everythings – all of these things are things that we, as readers, are able to feel too. I’m not sure how this amazing author is able to do this, but she just does. She did it once before, and I’m not at all surprised that she’s done it again with Where The Stars Still Shine.
You guys, like everyone else, when I found out about this new book a long time ago, I RUSHED, SPRINTED, RAN to Goodreads to quickly add it to my to-read shelf. Why did I do this? Did I think this would make the book come out sooner? Would this make me any closer to the publication date? Would it land the book in my hands sooner? No, no I didn’t think any of that. It’s silly, really, but I was so excited (like everyone else) that I just wanted to be a part of the next thing that came from her pen that I wanted in on it RIGHT NOW. And I wanted to be a part of everyone else that was excited too. It sounds so silly, but you all know what I’m talking about because you all sprinted to add it to your shelves too.
The thing about Where The Stars Still Shine is this: I began the book only having seen the cover. I didn’t go into it with a single shred of information about the story at all. I had not read the summary. I had not read any reviews. I only knew this: After reading and re-reading this author’s previous work and falling so incredibly hard for it for so many reasons, I trust her completely. She’s in the club, y’all. All I need to know is that she has something in the works, and BAM! I know that I’m reading it.
So I begin the story, and just a few paragraphs in, I had to stop. Why why why, you ask? Well, I knew right
away that this is the type of story that one doesn’t merely sit and read in a haphazard fashion. Or at least not ME. So I sat down my Kindle and I grabbed my lovely coffee mug full of my favorite brew, I grabbed my favorite blanket, I snuggled down into my recliner, and I lost myself in the story. And this is how it should be when you read this book.
And this is how it will be when I re-read this book.
And seriously, she wins all of the awards for writing the stories that just stick to your ribs.
If I had to sum it up in one word, writing controversial themes in Where the Stars Still Shine was scary.
I knew as I was writing that sexual abuse might be a trigger for sensitive readers and that the sexual content might be a magnet for book banners. But here’s the thing: If I worry too much about offensive content, I risk the integrity of the story that needs to be told. So I pulled on my patented (not really, but it should be considering that she’s target number one) Lauren Myracle Bulletproof Writer Vest and set to work.
I did a lot of research on sexual abuse so that Callie’s behavior would make sense, but that I would also handle it with sensitivity. I have a friend who was abused as a child and when she read the book, she told me she felt so many of the same feelings as Callie and asked me, “How did you know that?” And I think the answer is that after you do all the research and have all the facts and “typicals” of abuse, you have to put yourself in the character’s head. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve never been abused, but I can imagine what sort of pain I would feel. I can imagine how I might have responded as a teenager. I can imagine what Callie is hoping to gain by engaging in promiscuous behavior and I know how I would feel when the encounter left me as shamed as my abuser had. It’s really not that hard, but I think it’s vital to the story––even if it ruffles some feathers along the way.
Stemming from this is the sexual content itself. I knew early on that Callie needed an experience that was different from experiences past. She needed someone who would help erase some of the shame and who would show her what a healthy sexual relationship looks like. Someone who would think about her needs as well as his own. While the scenes makes for a much more mature book than I expected, I wouldn’t change a single moment, because Callie learning she has sexual agency is enormously important. And I don’t think that’s a bad message to be sending to teenage girls. It’s not encouraging them to action, but it’s certainly saying that the right partner is respectful, responsible, and cares about you.
By now the book is out in the world, there might be some controversy. I hope not, but I’ve got the Lauren Myracle Bulletproof Writer Vest on. I’m ready.
That’s all you’re getting, guys! Trust your author.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher to read and share my thoughts on this blog. All of the above thoughts and opinions are mine! Thank you so much Bloomsbury USA Children’s!
I was born in Germany, grew up in Ohio, went to college at Ohio State University, got married to someone really excellent, bounced from Maine to Michigan and back to Ohio for awhile. Now I live in Florida with my two mostly grown kids, two dogs, and a pirate. For real.
I’ve worked as a morning radio personality, a newspaper reporter, and spent all my summers in college working at an amusement park. There I gained valuable life skills, including counting money really fast, directing traffic, jumping off a moving train, and making cheese-on-a-stick. Also, I can still welcome you to Frontier Town. Ask me sometime.
These days I work as a bookseller at a Very Big Bookstore. And I write.