Beneath Wandering Stars
by Ashlee Cowles (Author)

Booktalk: After her soldier brother is horribly wounded in Afghanistan, Gabriela must honor the vow she made: If anything ever happened to him, she would walk the Camino de Santiago through Spain, making a pilgrimage in his name. The worst part is that the promise stipulates that she must travel with her brother’s best friend–a boy she has despised all her life. Her brother Lucas is in a coma, and Gabi feels that she has no time to waste, but she is unsure. Will she hesitate too long, or risk her own happiness to keep a promise?

Snippet: “I’m fine. Just tired.” I roll over, struggling to get comfortable. A brigade of chirping insects fills the fields surrounding us, and their lullaby brings me back to that murky place where memories blur into dreams.

Cicadas. Big Red soda. Chlorine.

I’m in the sixth grade and Lucas is in seventh–our ages the first time Dad was stationed in Texas. We lived off-post and had to go to a nonmilitary school for the first time. We hated it. All of the other kids had known each other since kindergarten, so they ignored us. There was also this weird division between the white kids and the Latino kids, which we’d never experienced before. Military brats are used to hanging out with everyone, no matter if you’re black, brown, or blue.

September. Asphalt hot enough to fry an egg. All the grass in our subdivision is brown. Lucas is wearing his favorite San Antonio Spurs hat.

On our walk home from school. Lucas got into a fight with another Latino boy who teased me for “acting too white.” I had no idea what that even meant. All I knew was that I didn’t fit in anywhere or have a single friend, which meant I spent most of the lunch period hiding out in a bathroom stall. Not my finest hour, in addition to being totally disgusting.

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