Initial reaction: Probably 2.5 - 3 stars from me. I wanted to like "Where the Stars Still Shine" much more than I did, but Callie was just too unlikable for me to get behind. She didn't really have a sense of responsibility, and while parts of that I could say that was probably due to her upbringing and circumstances, othertimes, it was a bit too hard to suspend disbelief, particularly since the coming to terms was a bit too quick to digest in the end.
My reflections on Trish Doller's "Where the Stars Still Shine" probably sum up best saying "It's not you, it's me" - and I don't do that with a lot of books. For all intents and purposes, this was well written and developed story. I can't take away from that at all. It's the kind of book I should've loved.
I do like reading about a myriad of different characters, including protagonists who are troubled and have a hard time adjusting from tragic circumstances. Callie's no exception to the part of being a troubled teen. Having been on the run with her mother for much of her life, Callie's world is thrown out of the familiar when her mother's arrested for kidnapping and she's returned to her father's home. Back to a big Greek family, back to little brother's she's never known, back to the possibility of living a normal life that's more stationary than she's ever been. It should be an ideal situation considering she's got a job in her lap, a father who's willing to provide her everything she needs and wants, and an insta-best friend (who was really her best friend as a child, but you can't compare a life lived at four years old to 17).
So, what would be the problem here? It's really the makings of providing Callie with the tools to pick up and start her life again, and for the platform of self-discovery, I could see Callie doing well for herself with the set up, though she'd have to deal with her internal demons.
The problem is that Callie simply can't let go of her old life and is constantly engaged in self-sabotage. I expected this, but at the same time, I don't know if I liked the portrayal, especially of her respective actions and character. She goes where she wants, when she wants, doesn't care about the consequences and how she worries other people without truly feeling the repercussions of those actions. I understood her respective histories, even sympathized with them, but I still think Callie didn't really go through a progressive coming of age here - it was too abruptly resolved in the last several chapters of the book. Her mother was a toxic presence to Callie as well as herself when she didn't have help. I understood this as well, and the pull of guilt that Callie had with leaving her behind, but I couldn't understand the constant lying by omission and excuses that came without due repercussions to the way Callie treated those around her so carelessly.
I also wasn't really convinced by the romance in this novel - Alex never really seemed to me to be more than just someone Callie had to escape her situations. And the whole mess with Connor...oy vey. I felt sorry for him, I really did.
It's not a bad story, not in the slightest, and I can see why some people would love it for how the protagonist overcomes some deeply rooted problems from her past, but I just had a difficult time with the narrative with the subject matter and factors considering the protagonist and her respective actions. I do think it was decent for a coming of age story, but again, I think my issues with Callie's portrayal kept me from feeling as invested as I would've been otherwise.
Overall score: 3/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Bloomsbury.