Under the Milky Way by Vanessa Barneveld
Publication Date: August 10, 2021
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Nothing ever happens in Dawson, Colorado.
Until high school senior Cassidy Roekiem’s mom checks into a “wellness center,” but nothing is wrong with her.
Then people start seeing lights in the sky and missing chunks of time, but the town insists nothing is going on.
And now Hayden, the new boy at school who keeps to himself and is more than a little mysterious, starts to notice her like it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
Suddenly, “nothing” is starting to feel a whole lot like something. And everything leads back to Hayden. The boy she’s starting to fall for. The boy with too many dark secrets for his kind heart. The boy she’s pretty sure isn’t human…
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In UNDER THE MILKY WAY, mysterious new kid in town Hayden always seems to pop up in the most unexpected places. Like at Eden Estate, a so-called “wellness center” that puts chills down heroine Cassidy’s spine. Her mother has checked herself into this this place, but Cassidy is convinced it’ll do her more harm than good.
Hayden catches me waving. There’s a mix of curiosity and warmth in his eyes that makes my insides wobble. The atmosphere around us seems to throb, like it does when summer storms approach. Except it’s fall.
“Do you know someone in there?” he asks, face softening.
A lump of emotion in my throat stops me from answering. I can only nod.
“I’m sorry.” He starts to reach for me, but then thinks better of it, folding his arms tightly across his broad chest. I’m glad he didn’t hug me or anything. I would’ve totally lost it.
“It’s fine.” A blatant lie. He tilts his head like he knows it, too.
His smile is a reassuring one. “I bet your mom will be out of there in no time.”
“I hope so—” My eyebrows knit together. “Wait, how did you know I was talking about my mother?”
Hayden’s leg collapses for a second. His entire face turns an even deeper shade of burgundy this time. Plum, even. “Sorry. When you said ‘she,’ I…I just assumed.”
I peer at him closely. Does he have a sixth sense? I cast my mind back to our morning biology class, a lifetime ago, where he seemed to react to what I was thinking. Then there was the “last resort” comment, which echoed my thoughts about Eden exactly.
Maybe we’re in tune somehow.
It also could be my imagination running away with me.
Wouldn’t be the first time.
But am I also imagining the electric current pulsing in the air?
I shake my head. Of course I’m imagining it. I’m letting Angie’s melodramatic influence get to me. She believes in romanticisms like sparks flying and chemistry bubbling between two people. The only electricity here is coming from the power lines running parallel to the road.
“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” I say, keeping my fingers crossed that Hayden really isn’t a mind reader. “But don’t spread it around.”
He nods solemnly. “I won’t tell anyone. You can trust me.”
My stomach churns as I look at Eden. Once again, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s the wrong place for Mom.
“I take it visiting hours are over?”
Tossing my head, I say, “They don’t have visiting hours, period. I’m surprised I got in today at all.”
“That’s weird.” He stares at me for a long while. “You’ll get back in there.”
“Oh, I intend to.” Sighing, I say, “I’d better head home, though. There’s not a lot I can do about it now.”
Short of a court order. Or maybe a SWAT operation.
“Right.” He snaps his fingers. “I’ll get out of your way.”
“Thanks. And, uh, you’d better follow me.” I hide a grin.
“Can’t have you driving aimlessly. You might end up in Canada.”
He laughs, sheepish. “It’s okay. I’ll figure it out. Besides, I need to stop for gas. I don’t want to hold you up.”
We lean on our respective car doors and stare at each other, just ten feet apart. It doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere.
Then I remember how it doesn’t seem like he’s gelled with anyone at school yet. He must be dying for company. “Hey, uh, you should come to the lake party tonight,” I
say. “Hang out for a bit.”
His doubtful expression drills a tiny hole in my heart, but I push that aside. “We don’t have to go together together. I mean, it’s a traditional senior class thing and you’re new in town and people are curious about you.”
Hayden recoils. I’m not sure if that’s because he finds my rambling distasteful or if he’s uncomfortable about being thought of as a curiosity. “Uh…”
“Look, no pressure. It’ll just be kids standing around a bonfire and seeing who can burp the loudest and longest. And that’s just the cheerleaders.”
A deep, genuine laugh erupts from Hayden, making me feel like a comedienne.
“I’ll think about it. But just to let you know, I’m physically incapable of burping, so I’d sit that contest out.”
Rolling my eyes, I say, “Sure, Hayden. But one day you’re gonna have to prove you’re human like the rest of us.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Australian Vanessa Barneveld lives in a 19th-century house in inner-city Sydney with a 21st-century husband, two eccentric cats and one ghost—all of whom provide inspiration for her spirited novels. In addition to her writing career, she’s part of a crack team that produces closed captions for deaf TV viewers and audio descriptions for the blind. An avid traveler, she enjoys the journeys almost as much as the destinations. She freely admits to being food motivated and will stop at nothing to find the perfect hot chips wherever she roams around the world.
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