The rediscovery of Doller power

Nothing beats the feeling of falling in love with an author’s work for the first time…except maybe revisiting that work and realizing you’re just as enthralled as you were that very first time. With so many new books being released every week, it’s not always as convenient to go back and spend time with those old favorites. Part of it is the sheer volume of books in the world, sure, but I think there’s also this teenie tiny fear that you won’t connect with a certain title quite as strongly as you did the first time. Time passes, circumstances change, and so does the way we read and interpret these stories. It’s entirely possible but true love is forever and this is certainly true of my relationship with Trish Doller’s books.

I remember exactly where I was when I read Something Like Normal (it took a round trip between home and work on the train) and the same with Where the Stars Still Shine (on a plane ride — with a layover in Chicago — heading back home from a wonderful visit in Austin with Magan). Apparently transportation plays into reading time with Doller’s books. I really must like crying in public. But in all seriousness, any reader would want to be holed up in a closed space with one of these delectable contemporaries. The girls are genuine and strong and different degrees of broken. The boys are real and emotional and just as messy as any teenage girl is expected to be. (In real life, we know this is how the story goes but too few young adult books make it known.) Family is around and either great or not, which is majorly reflective of real life too.

Trish Doller

Since I’m writing this on a public platform and not disguising any titles or names (Drish Toller?), I’m sure you can guess that I decided to re-read both titles recently (to build up to my excitement of the long awaited The Devil You Know) and well, you would have thought it was a 2015 release that wasn’t actually covered in a bit of dust. (It gets really dusty in this apartment; I swear I’ve moved my copy since I bought it!) I eased right into Something Like Normal and didn’t let a massive headache stop me from finishing. Where the Stars Still Shine was practically burning a book-sized hole in my purse when I wasn’t able to pick it up. (Somehow I didn’t think my mom would accept it if I chose a book over one of our rare visits.) I know how both of these ended, and I remembered the massive moments but with Dollar, it’s all about the details — Travis’s friendship with Charlie and his love of thrift shops; Callie’s guitar, the lights in her Airstream, how her nickname became Peach. They makes these stories so familiar, so alive, and so distinctly her.

A few more observations:

  • I forgot how lovely the relationship between Travis and his mom is. He’s feeling guilty because she was so dedicated to being a great Marine mom while he was in Afghanistan and he barely called home but she understood. She didn’t hound him or make him feel guilty, and on the flip side, when she needs someone, he’s there in a huge way. Their relationship wasn’t always perfect (by a long shot) but time away gave him perspective and changed how they relate to each other forever.
  • Water can heal. Both books are set in Florida (which I love) so it’s no big surprise that there are some beachy scenes in both. I’m an Aquarius. I believe in the power of water. In Something Like Normal, Travis spends the day on a boat with his Marine pals and an old school friend, Harper. A day like that makes him trust that he can work through what’s ailing him. Where the Stars Still Shine features one of my favorite scenes in a book ever — Callie and Alex snorkeling. It’s so overwhelmingly beautiful, and it has nothing to do with the chemistry between these two but all about the intimacy of nature and the two of them getting to know each other.
  • Strong female characters who know what they want (or don’t) who like sex (or don’t) who believe in shooting straight with a guy even if it seems silly not to be “over” a certain situation all these years later (Harper) or succumb to attraction and teeter around the possibility of something more (Callie). Those who want friendships but don’t always know how to be friend; who want acceptance from others and themselves for all their messy parts in addition to all the good.
  • For all of the tough moments (PTSD, kidnapping, abuse, etc.), Doller never forgets to inject the little joys into the lives of her characters. From friendship to family to newfound indie bookstores and a night watching sea turtles, there is so much for each of these characters to embrace as they work to overcome their own battles. The exact ups and downs we face every single day.

This is what I know after diving into these worlds again: these books need to be dog-eared, highlighted, and embraced over and over again by young adults who want to be talked to with respect and maturity and adults who are undoubtably facing so many of the same challenges as these characters. Loss, misunderstanding, betrayal, happiness, belonging, and taking the necessary steps toward renewal and peace with a side order of forgiveness. Most of all, it’s a shame that coming across these books in my local bookstores is a challenge. I wish it wasn’t because I know so many could benefit from these stories  — whether it’s because they felt similar pain or because they’re looking for the full reading experience.

So while new books and voices are wonderfully impossible to avoid, there’s something to be said for the ones that are always waiting patiently in the shadows of our outrageous piles, ready to welcome you back and unlock more of their layers.

∴

Trish Doller’s new book, The Devil You Know, released on June 2, 2015.

Follow her on Twitter and on her website.

Also see: The Re-Read Challenge.

Top Ten Tuesday: Tough Subject Books

I’m pretty drawn to tough subject books. I scoured my Goodreads lists and narrowed it down to these FIFTEEN tough subject books instead of ten. (Bonus reads!) Obviously I didn’t follow the rules very well. Some of these were harder than others, but they all have aspects of them that really open your eyes to some difficult-to-discuss topics. If you have recommendations for me, I’d love to know what you suggest I add to my TBR.

I broke these down into a few topics and added brief notes for why they were difficult. No spoilers included. All links go to either a review on Rather Be Reading or Goodreads so you can check out the summaries.

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BULLYING:

young adult books about bullying recommendation

  1. Rites of Passage — bullying, sexism, hazing
  2. Tease — teen suicide, bullying
  3. If I Lie — knowing the secret truth about characters, bullying, ass-hat father
  4. Some Girls Are — bullying. bullying. bullying. stupid high school.

 

CIRCUMSTANCES & RELATIONSHIPS:

young adult books with difficult topics, circumstances, and uncomfortable relationships

  1. The Tragedy Paper — albino character, seclusion, longing after an unavailable girl
  2. Ketchup Clouds — written to a prisoner, hidden identity of main character
  3. The Lucy Variations — uncomfortable relationship with an adult, parents dictating every move
  4. When You Were Here — loss of a parent, misuse of prescription pills, loss of sense of self
  5. Small Town Sinners — discovering one’s own religious beliefs apart from what parents have taught you to believe
  6. Room — being held hostage, abuse, kidnap, written from the POV of a 5 year old

 

SEX / ABUSE / PREGNANCY:

young adult books about sex, mental and sexual abuse, and pregnancy

  1. Where the Stars Still Shine — mental/emotional abuse MC suffered from mother’s instability
  2. Please Ignore Vera Dietz – implicit sexual fetish, death of a friend, crumbling friendship
  3. Me, Him, Them, & It — teen pregnancy + working through the decision to keep, abort, or give up the baby for adoption
  4. Uses for Boys — language + actual way it was written, but also sexually explicit, borderline uncomfortable for me — sex isn’t described as overly poetic and is raw and often very in-your-face
  5. Live Through This — sexual abuse by a relative, mental instability of the MC who questions right from wrong

 

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Which of these books was most difficult for you to read?
What tough subject book recommendations do you have for me?

joint book review of Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Book Report: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Hello, friends! It’s been a long, long while (over a year!) since we’ve done a joint review (aka: book report around here) together. How this works is we each read the same book and have a nice, long chat about it. We really try not to be spoilery, and if we think something might be, we’ll let ya know. This time we’re discussing Trish Doller’s new release Where the Stars Still Shine.

joint book review of Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish DollerWhere the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Pages: 352
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: kidnapping, Greek family, reunification with family
Format read: ARCs from the publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Callie and her mother have been on the run for over ten years. After her mother’s arrest, Callie is reunited with her large Greek family and biological father, from whom her mom kidnapped Callie. She’s torn between making a new life with him and being loyal to her mother.

We’re changing up the formatting a little bit for this review. You can keep track of who said what by our little photographs. Just in case you’re not familiar with what we look like, here ya go:

Magan Blasig Magan

Estelle Hallick Estelle

Magan Blasig Where the Stars Still Shine is Trish Doller’s second book. We both loved Something Like Normal. After finishing WtSSS, how do you feel about Doller’s writing?

Estelle Hallick Something Like Normal was fantastic and I think my only disappointment was the length. I wanted more! So as far as that goes, I think Trish really nailed it in her new book. It felt developed in a different way and gave us a longer amount of time to spend with these characters.

Magan Blasig I completely agree. I really felt time passing in this book and connected so deeply to the situation. From the very first chapters, I felt invested. We have Callie, a girl who was kidnapped from her father by her mother as a result of their divorce. She and her mother have lived in countless cities and assumed as many identities. The situation made me feel such a tightness in my chest. I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe sometimes, especially as we learned more and more about Callie’s life growing up.

Estelle HallickSame here. I really felt for her. She had such love for her mom, even though she was pretty much absent and all of these terrible things were happening. When you read about a situation like that, you can’t help but think JUST HOW LONG CAN THIS GO ON? It made me think a lot about labels, and having affection for people because they are in this authoritative position. Like of course I love her because she’s my mom but she is not a stand up person. Does that make sense?

Magan BlasigYES! It really hurt because Callie knew right from wrong, but every time her mother re-entered her life, all logic went out the window. It made me realize how blind we can be. It’s no secret (per the book’s summary) that Callie is reunited with her biological father after her mother is arrested. I really, really felt for her dad. I admired his character so very much.

Estelle HallickME TOO. Wasn’t he the best guy? He could have so easily made Callie’s mom out to be this enemy but he didn’t.

 

Magan BlasigYou’re so right! He never bashed her or said negative things. Even though their marriage ended, it was clear that he would have tried to make it work. I think dads are so often absent in YA books, and I applaud Doller for how involved she made Greg. And really, her entire extended family. How much did you love her BFF/cousin, Kat?

Estelle HallickLike you, I loved loved all the supporting characters. Loved seeing a Greek family. I don’t remember seeing that in any other YA book. But Kat was awesome. So many times girls are feuding in books or being bitches and Kat was so open and warm and wonderful. It was interesting to watch Callie’s reactions to that.

Magan BlasigYES! I could visualize Kat and Callie’s family so well. One of my college friends got married last year and they had a big Greek wedding. I felt like Doller really nailed everything about this aspect. And I couldn’t agree more about Kat. She just inserted herself into Callie’s life — Callie had never had a friend, much less a best friend. I admired how they worked through the tense situations that came up, especially pertaining to Alex.

Estelle HallickYes. Alex. Did you not fear for the worst?

 

Magan BlasigIt really took some time for me to trust him. Their relationship was SO HOT from the very beginning and I just knew bad things were looming.

Estelle HallickWasn’t it?? Hearing about Callie’s relationship with sex was like… not what I was expecting.

 

Magan BlasigTotally. Doller was, to me, very bold with how she handled sex in WtSSS. She was very careful about how she described passionate scenes, not taking things too far, but at the same time, I felt like she pushed the limits, too. Does that even make sense? HAHA!

Estelle HallickTotally. I loved it.

 

Magan BlasigSo Callie has some… ghosts in her closet. She has some pretty serious issues to deal with. I personally struggled a lot with these revelations. I wanted to punch things, skip the scenes, and protect her all at the same time. Do you have reactions like this to these kinds of things in books?

Estelle HallickOf course, I felt terrible for her and I wanted her to be able to move forward from this. But sometimes I feel like these books are the most effective. (Like Live Through This.) Trish didn’t let this become “an issue” book because, just like in real life, when something nightmarish like this is occurring real life keeps rolling on.

Magan BlasigI’m really glad you brought up Live Through This. This book and WtSSS are the two books that stand out, in my mind, as being really effective at discussing the mental and emotional turmoil people suffer through. I found both of these to be a little difficult for me to read, but equally addicting. And I agree with you about WtSSS not becoming an issue book. I was pleased to see Callie learning to trust people and letting herself open up about certain things when the timing was right. Ideally, I hope this is what someone would do in real life.

Estelle HallickMe too! I really do. So what was your favorite scene and what do you think could have been improved?

 

Magan BlasigOh my goodness. TOUGH QUESTIONS. As much as I would love to say that my favorite was the scene where Alex and Callie go snorkeling, I think I have to say when Greg takes Callie to see a house that’s under construction. I felt that was a major breakthrough for them. (Actually, both scenes really were.) And I don’t really have anything that I feel super needs to be improved, but I think in the future, I would like to see Doller explore a family that has their shit together. In Something Like Normal, there were some pretty messed up dynamics, and there definitely were here as well. I would love to see her create a family that’s well-balanced and see where she goes from there. What would the major drama be there? I’m sure she could come up with something excellent. Now, right back atcha. What do you think?

Estelle HallickOh, I love everything you just said. The snorkeling scene was amazing and made me want to snorkel again. The exhilaration Callie feels? Amazing and so true to life. I also did love any scene with Callie and her Dad, like the one you mentioned. BUT I also loved how much books meant to Callie. I do think so many readers are going to love how connected she felt to them, and how much they meant to her.

Magan BlasigOh, gosh, yes! THE BOOKSTORE!

 

Estelle HallickWasn’t that the best? I wanted to go there!

 

Magan BlasigYES! Me too! Soooo, what about improvement?

 

Estelle HallickI think there could have been a little more at the end? Another scene with the family? The pacing was great and the story felt whole but I could have used a few more scenes to get it going. Also I would love to see a companion novel about Kat.

Magan BlasigOH! That’s an awesome idea! I really did love Kat. She was such a standout character. I cannot say that enough. And yes, I can see how the ending felt a little unsatisfactory. I have to admit that I was a little bit shocked by how things ended, but I wasn’t unhappy.

Estelle HallickMe neither. So maybe it’s just a selfish desire to want more, as we do with really good books.

 

Magan BlasigAbsolutely. Well put! Any final thoughts about Where the Stars Still Shine?

 

Estelle HallickI think this is one of the most solid reads of the year for me. Trish does a great job of balancing a lot of different plotlines and personalities and her writing is just top notch. It’s definitely on the serious side but I think that makes the joyous, sweeter moments pop more.

Magan BlasigI completely, completely agree with you. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and planning out the next time I could! I really, really want everyone to read this book. And I’m such a fan of Doller’s. You described it best: solid.

Estelle HallickAny final notes? Should we say something more about Alex?

 

Magan BlasigI’m not sure. I kind of liked the mystery surrounding him.

 

Estelle Hallick Me too. Haha!

 

Magan BlasigI will say that I think readers should set aside plenty of time to read this all at once. I hated that I had to read it over a few days.

Estelle HallickI agree. I rarely read books all in one sitting but it was nice to have airplane time to dive into this story. (Esp. when I was so sad to leave you!)

Magan BlasigAww, sad day!

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