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Feature book: Under the Milky Way

1 September 2021

Under the Milky Way by Vanessa Barneveld

Subgenre: YA paranormal romance
Release date: 10 Aug 2021
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Format: ebook and print
Length: 400 pages
RRP: $9.71 (ebook); $19.99 (print)

This was fun and went in a few different ways I didn’t expect—which I love in a book. Released under the Entangled: Teen imprint the book will satisfy teens and up, especially those who like looking to the skies for some Star Wars/X Files action along with some sweet romance.

The book is set in Colorado, an American mid-west state, where the Rocky Mountains run through and there’s lots of other spectacular flat country. All in all, a great place to live.

… Until it’s not. Teenage Cassidy Roekiem’s mother has been checked into ‘Eden Estate’ for ongoing mental health issues, which escalated and caused Cassidy’s parents to divorce. Her mom was following up a cracker of an investigative story about a former US President’s daughter, Jane Flanagan, snatched from a playground as a child and still missing decades later. Although her mother was very secretive about the evidence she found, Cassidy’s convinced there is something on her mother’s disabled computer which might hold some clues about the story—and possibly the reason her mother had a breakdown.

Cassidy lives with her lawyer father, but badly misses her mother and wants her to come home. She’s not allowed to visit her or even phone her, which is bizarre. All the more reason to try and snoop around in her mother’s old notes and work out what’s gone wrong.

Cassidy’s also worried about unusual happenings in the area. Flashing lights in the sky at night. Losing chunks of time from her life. Odd memories which seem—wrong. Painful weird encounters with—she can’t make them out, but they certainly don’t seem benign. The memories are often set off by strobe or strong lights, and she wonders if what she seems to remember is actually true or her imagination. Either way, something’s off kilter.

There’s a support group in town for people who claim to have been abducted and returned by aliens, so she joins that but is still unsure. I mean, aliens? Alien abductions?

Hayden McGraw—who according to Cassidy has a name that comes straight out of the wild west—is a fairly new student at her school. He and his family, including his genius little sister, live out on a somewhat creepy estate all by themselves at the edge of town. Creepy because it’s rumoured to be riddled with sinkholes. No-one except the McGraws have been crazy enough to buy a house there in case they fall into a sinkhole, so they have the whole estate to themselves.

Hayden is tall and very good looking but seems a bit reclusive and shy. He hasn’t really made friends yet. But he’s super-nice, seems smart, is a crack athlete, and supports Cassidy when she has some of her weird flashbacks. He seems to know more about it than her other friends. He also thinks Cassidy’s plan to get her mother out of care and back home sounds good.

It’s inevitable that Cassidy and Hayden get closer, quickly. And it turns out Hayden’s a pretty good kisser, too, so things steam up a bit.

I can’t really talk about this book without giving away huge plot points. But wow, what a ride. Conspiracy theories, the CIA, the Secret Service, people keeping massive secrets, the President’s missing daughter puzzle, the creepy Eden Estate where Cassidy’s mother is interred, hypnosis, UFOs, the did-I-get-abducted-by-aliens and all that side of things plus the romance make a terrific read. Yes, really, all of that!

It also ends with a fabulously suggestive last sentence. I suspect there may be more stories in this series! If so, strap on your seat belt and get ready to enjoy the ride.

reviewed by Malvina

A review copy of this book was provided by the author.

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