The Dish: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Posted November 18, 2013 by Andi in Books, Discussions / 0 Comments

Where the Stars Still Shine [Amazon]
Author: Trish Doller [website]
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Netgalley/Digital ARC
Reviewed by: Andi & Michelle

Publisher Description:
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.

Andi: I am so flipping excited that we got a chance to read this super early. I was completely enamored with Doller’s first book Something Like Normal so I’ve been chomping at the bit for this one. And can I just tell you in love. Callie and Alex. Alex and Callie. Um, did I mention Alex?!?! HA. I love that Doller doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff, you know?

Michelle:  I gotta say, she does get right to it in a story.  There isn’t any light and fluffy build up to some of the harder-hitting subject matter.  I’m not quite as far along in the story as you but the fact that Callie is so quick to give herself to Alex (heck any boy) shows just how broken she is.  I’m super interested to see how her relationships with men develop and how the different dynamics play out.  She has romance (sorta) with the boys and then is so reserved and scared with any adult male like her father.

As for the Alex scenario, I have two words…. Bad.Boy.

A: Boy is sex on legs. I mean YUM-MY! He has the swagger and the looks and the man whore thing, but you can tell her is really really caring and has a huge heart(without giving too much away since I’m not sure where you are in the story). He is totally sexy and I don’t blame Callie for having some of that. HA

But you’re right, she is so completely broken with no self worth at all. She is a jumble of emotions that she doesn’t know what to do with and is too scared to take them out on anyone and deals with them one way and one way only. Her mother destroyed her and Callie feels guilty for even thinking that when it really is the truth. And my heart goes out to poor Greg too. He is so caught in the middle of wanting to be a dad but not knowing what to do, treading lightly afraid to lose his daughter again. Honestly I don’t know what I would do in his position.

M:  I’m going to give up the ghost and just say that there isn’t any way we’re going to be able to have this discussion without including spoilers.  So if you’re reading and you don’t want to be spoiled it’s probably best not to move any further into the conversation.

Callie was definitely the strongest and most interesting character of the lot.  She had a depth that I felt the rest lacked. The cousin was fun and a good pick me up from the heavier tone of the abuse and kidnapping scenario.  Alex was definitely the eye candy and there was some attempt to give him more emotional depth but I didn’t feel like it got to the right point even with the story about his mother.  The mother was totally cliche and the father was just vanilla.  All this to say I think there could have been a bit more to the kidnapping and reconnection to her family part of the story.  It all felt pretty surface level and it definitely wrapped up fast.

A: I get what you’re saying to an extent. Callie was definitely the strongest character but I thought the rest of the characters were strong in the roles they were meant for. Callie’s dad was actually one of the characters that I liked the most because he didn’t know his place in her life and how to juggle a child he knew as a little girl that was now an adult with the life he had come to live. The cousin was the throw away character for me. She was too much right off the bat, but again she had her place that was important to Callie. The mother was a very very troubled person and I was psyched when she finally did the right thing by her daughter.

But what I liked the most was watching Callie’s walls come down slowly whether it was Alex that helped bring them down, her dad or even the cousin. That was the biggest and brightest part and I found that to be a pretty slow progression on a short book that wrapped up quickly. I really found myself falling in love with the whole story from start to finish. I thought it was strong and emotional and I got where all sides were coming from, you know?

M: Yes, I agree that I got where all sides were coming from but I think my issue is with the slow progression that wrapped up so quickly in the end.  I would have liked another 50 pages to allow for the build up and culmination to be paced more evenly.  I wanted to see more out of the relationship that Callie and Alex were building and definitely more out of how his own family life related to how hers was changing.  There was a lot to build off of there that I think got bypassed.

I’m right there with you on the annoying cousin.  She was just a bit too over the top for me.  If she were just a little more muted in her personality there could have been a great BFF vibe between she and Callie.  I mean, it was there in  a small way but it could have been outstanding had she stopped twirling her hair and snapping her gum, you know?

Thankfully, Doller definitely has it in the romance department.  She creates characters that have awesome chemistry. I loved me some Alex and enjoyed seeing how he and Callie interacted. It made perfect sense to me that Callie had no respect for herself and pretty much jumped into bed with him so quickly.  Particularly given the fact that she had a horrible female role model and was raised in the environment she was. It was interesting to see how her lack of trust played into that.

A: Doller is the queen of a good romance. But I also like how she tackles the real issues from the start. She didn’t shy away from what Callie had happened to her. She showed how it affected her in a way that made sense, at least to me anyway. Like you, I do think the book could have been longer, but I like what she did tackle and how things were mostly resolved. We got to see the most about Callie in the way that she dealt with Alex right from the start. That said a lot about the character of Callie and her background and how Alex responded to her said a lot about him.

Let’s discuss the step-mother. What did you think of her role in this story? I got where she was coming from but I didn’t get the feeling that she thought about what Callie had been through and where her husband was coming from. I found her to be somewhat harsh.

M: I understood where she was coming from too but I actually thought she was pretty reasonable overall.  How many women with two young children would be comfortable with a strange teenager in her house?  Especially one that has had the past that Callie has had?  Not many that I can think of.  But, she was supportive of her husband and ultimately supportive of Callie. The harsh parts made sense to me and I like that they were in “private” between the step-mother and Callie’s dad.  I also felt like the drama with the small child while Callie was babysitting seemed pretty real too.  As a mother she was just freaking out when her child got injured and lashed out.  In the end, I do think she was pretty supportive of Callie and after awhile she did calm down and embrace her as part of the family.

I feel like we should be talking more about the Alex and his mom story but it felt kind of meh for me.  What about you?

A: It wasn’t my favorite part of the story. That much I can admit. It just kind of seemed random. But with that said I got what its purpose was in the long run. It was used to give Alex some depth and a past of sorts, something he was running from, much like Callie, but it did seem like a throw away part of the book. It didn’t take away from my love of it, but it almost wasn’t needed in the way that it was used. There could have been some other way for Alex to have something emotional in his past. Some other reason for him to stick around and do what he was doing and not living his own life. And the part with Alex’s father was a little awkward and never really touched on much. Did he beat him or not? I was kind of a little confused about that small aspect.

But again, all of that didn’t take away from what I truly loved about the book and that was the emotional depth. When I was reading I could feel what Callie was feeling and that’s important to me in a great book.

M: Exactly, it was an unnecessary sub-plot to give Alex relatability to Callie.  I think it could have worked better if we got a glimpse of it earlier in the story and if the part with the father was excluded entirely would have made it more understandable. But, like you, I can’t help wondering if there was some other way to create that bond between he and Callie.  I must admit, too, that I was a bit disappointed that he was alluded to as a bad boy and really he didn’t ever do anything bad.  This “reason” for his badness was anti-climatic.  I did appreciate his love for his mom though, that was super-sweet.

A: That was really sweet. And I loved seeing him with his nephews. That totally got my heart pitter pattering. I think the world needs more of those kind of boys in it. HA.

M: Couldn’t agree more.  Doller does this exceptionally well too. She gets how to create chemistry between two characters be it romantic or platonic. This is one of the reasons that I don’t have a problem picking up her books and reading it without even knowing what it’s about!

A: And really, what more is there to say than that! 🙂

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