Sunday, July 26, 2020

Book Review: Beneath Wandering Stars

“People are the only home the Army issues.”

This book is full of so, sooo many gems! Like the above line and many others that I wish I could share them all, but then it would be the whole book. I’m not doing that. What I will be doing is talking about reasons why you should read the story.

Book: Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles
Genre: YA Contemporary
My rating: 5/5 stars
Awards: Colorado Book Award for Young Adult Literature (2017)
Mini description: Army brats

I first found out about the novel when I was doing a search for contemporary young adult novels set in Europe. Historical fiction is great, and it has its place, but I haven’t read as many contemporary novels set in Europe. I’m making a list. When I found out the book was set on the Camino de Santiago, I was ecstatic. For those of you who may not know, I walked the Camino (aka the Way of Saint James) with my Mom last spring. To have a YA novel set along the pilgrimage sounded awesome.

What I didn’t know about the book was that it was about an Army Brat who walked the Camino by an Army brat who walked the Camino. Wait… I’m an Army brat. Is this a book I can actually, finally relate to in a way that’s deeper than your typical travel narrative? The blurb never told me this tidbit! I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS BOOK MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!

The military aspects of the books were pretty easy for me to understand but were explained well for readers who may not come from a military background. The book also addressed elements such as soldiers who are wounded in action and what is like for those who come back and don’t necessarily struggle with PTSD but are still never the same. Even having grown up in a military culture, the book reminded me that I don’t know all the aspects of what it’s like to serve in the military.

The characters themselves are super well developed. Gabi, the protagonist, is both frustrated with and proud of her life growing up amid the Army. Her list of things she hates about being an Army brat that turns into a list of things she learns to love at the end of the story is just beautiful. Seth, her brother’s best friend and comrade, seems like your typical stoic soldier, but as it turns out, he has a soft spot for cats and is terrified of chickens of all things.

Not only does the story have a protagonist I can relate to, but it also has gems like this one:

“I’d forgotten what mountain skies are like—how they make you feel insignificant and infinite at the same time.”

The setting is amazing. Of course, it’s the Camino. The book itself covers parts of the pilgrimage that I didn’t get to walk, like the journey up the mountains from St. Jean and even a chapel with chickens in it at Santo Domingo de la Calzada. I guess this means my mom and I are going to have to go back to walk the Camino again someday.

In all, I gave Beneath Wandering Stars 5/5 stars for great setting, characters, and themes. I would recommend the book to anybody who enjoys YA contemporary novels and to those who would like to better understand what it’s like to be a military brat. For my fellow Army brats, this book is for you.

Interested in Beneath Wandering Stars? Have you read it yet? You might also enjoy these books: Almost American Girl, Forward Me Back to YouThe Someday Birds, and Summer Blue Bird.

Let’s chat! Has Beneath Wandering Stars made it to your to-be-read list yet? Have you read it yet? Any fellow military brats out there? Have any recommendations for YA contemporaries set in Europe?


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