August 10, 2021

ARC REVIEW: Under the Milky Way by Vanessa Barneveld

Under the Milky Way by Vanessa Barneveld
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Release Date: August 10, 2021
Format: eARC
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Under the Milky Way by Vanessa Barneveld aimed for the moon and landed among the stars. In other words, she did a great job with this book.  Before going into the bulk of my review, I want to give props to the author because they listed potential trigger warnings on the first page of the book (before the story even began). It's nice to see an author who is cognizant of their reader's potential sensitivities and wants to give people as much advance notice as possible. 

Cassidy is just your average teen, who helps out in her dad's office in the very quiet town of Dawson, Colorado. When she's not doing normal high schooler stuff, she's hard at work investigating the one case that her reporter mother could never solve. Things start to get very heated in the little town in Colorado when new kid Hayden suddenly starts to take an interest in Cassidy and reports of people disappearing due to "alien abductions" become widespread. 

There was definitely some cheesiness with the romance in this book, but it's a young adult (YA) novel so that's somewhat to be expected. Cassidy is a strong, fierce, and stubborn character. Her dedication to the people she cares about is awe-inspiring. For the other half of the main relationship, I really liked Hayden as a love interest and a character. He's cute and super sweet to Cassidy, but it’s clear that he's hiding things. He had so many slip-ups about the whole alien thing that I was surprised Cassidy didn't catch on sooner. Their relationship did get very touchy-feely very fast (they really like kissing each other) but everything else seemed fairly natural and authentic. 

In addition to the characters, I loved the representation in this book. Being Dutch-Indonesian myself, I recognized almost all of the food references that Barneveld included and it made me very hungry. There's also a character who is deaf in this book, and the author features the use of sign language so it was nice to see that community get some representation in the YA world. 

My main critique of this book is the format. I enjoyed the flashbacks, but the research documents and communication memos kind of interrupted my immersion into the story. For example, one communication is just a bunch of binary and then a small memo at the bottom which was confusing. I didn't really understand how it related to the overall story arc. I think it would have been fine without them. 

I would recommend this book to young adult fans of the fantasy and science fiction genres. It has all the makings to be a perfect Halloween read, between aliens, paranormal mysteries, and widespread cover-ups.  Under the Milky Way had very similar elements to Stranger Things or Romeo and Juliet (Cassidy and Hayden are star-crossed in a different way). Thank you to Entangled Teen, NetGalley, and Vanessa Barneveld for allowing me to read an early copy of this book at no cost to myself.

CW: Discussion of divorced parents and kidnappings, scenes depicting the use of needles and extreme physical pain, scenes depicting a character with mental illness and undergoing drug therapy 

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