Today’s Bookanista recommendation is
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (Sept. 24, 2013)

From Goodreads – 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.

So… This book is a challenge to critically evaluate because, for me, it read as pretty much perfect. A total Katy Book. I only have raving, fangirl-ish things to say about it — I loved Where the Stars Still Shine SO MUCH. It saddens me that I read it in the form of a graciously-loaned ARC because when I was done, I had to return it. I can’t admire its pretty spine on my shelf, and I can’t flip back through the novel to revisit my favorite parts (mostly involving Alex).

I cannot wait to own a copy of Where the Stars Still Shine come September.

Callie is my favorite sort of main character. She’s scarred and angry and confused — fate has dealt her an awful hand — yet she’s got a relatively mature perspective on life. She isn’t hateful to people who try to help, and she doesn’t let bitterness drag her down. Even though she makes mistakes, it’s exhilarating and gratifying to watch her grow into her new  way of life. I was rooting for her every step of the way. I want to be Callie’s friend.

The cast of characters Callie finds in Tarpon Springs (a fantastic Florida  setting I want to visit) give this story depth and vibrancy. Think My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, but with far less kitsch. Callie’s father, Greg, is incredible — understanding and kind and patient. Her cousin/new BFF, Kat, lightens the mood and keeps Callie honest. And Alex… Oh, Alex. How I adore him. As far as 2013 books go, he is far and away my favorite book boy (man? he’s nearly twenty-two…). In fact, Alex ranks right up there with Jonah and Cricket and Perry on my Swoonworthy YA Guys list. I totally understand why Callie took risks to be with him.

Trish Doller writes so beautifully, so naturally. Her weaving of Callie’s current challenges with (often troubling) anecdotes from the past felt seamless. The highs and the lows, the happy and the sad, the loving and the loathing — the novel was a complete emotional journey. It left me with a sense of hope that, at times, I wasn’t sure would come. I think Something Like Normal is an amazing story, but Where the Stars Still Shine is my new favorite Trish Doller novel.

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