Where the stars still shine by Trish Doller

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Bloomsbury, 2013. ISBN 9781619631441.
(Age: 15+) Recommended for older teens as there is some explicit content. Child abuse. Self-esteem. Family relationships. Callie has been on the run for years. Stolen by her mother from her father and a large extended family, she has been hidden in dingy flats; she has never attended school and has found her food in Laundromat vending machines. An intelligent girl, she has managed to learn to read and has used libraries to discover things, but she doesn't have a clue about how to live a normal life in a family. When her mother is finally arrested and she is returned to her father, she must find a way to fit in with her father's new family, a stepmother and step siblings.
I was quite fascinated by the character of Callie and her voice felt so authentic that I believed whole heartedly in her story, empathised with her predicaments and cheered on her fumbling attempts to fit into a normal family and her feelings about the way her mother betrayed her. This is not a light look at a teen in danger. The reader is carried along with Callie's story of how she had been neglected by her mother, the danger that she was placed in when her mother brought home men and her belief that she needed to use sex to be loved. She is resilient and smart and her journey to self-esteem and believing in love is a memorable one. When she meets Alex Kostas she discovers that sex can be a beautiful and empowering thing, rather than something to fear and the Greek community help her to realise that she can be valued for herself.
This is a gritty, heart rending story that left me wondering how a girl who hadn't gone to school and who was abused could manage to be resilient against all the odds. Doller is such a clever author that she made me believe that Callie would survive. This is sure to appeal to readers who like harsh, realistic stories and could be one for reluctant readers to pick up.
Pat Pledger