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Nineteen-year-old war veteran Lucas Santiago is grappling with the knowledge that he’ll never walk again when he learns his best friend, Seth, hasn’t returned from his solo trek through Scotland. If Seth doesn’t report back soon, he’s risking an AWOL charge that could end his military career.

Lucas has no desire to leave the house, let alone brave a foreign country in a wheelchair, following bizarre clues Seth left behind. But Lucas’s sister, Gabi—who has feelings for Seth—won’t take no for an answer. The one thing Lucas never expects when he agrees to Gabi’s harebrained scheme is meeting Skye, a young British veteran with a traumatic past of her own. Skye also has unwavering confidence and a thirst for adventure—qualities Lucas sorely lacks as he struggles to adjust to his new life.

The trio sets off on a road trip to search for Seth in the Scottish Highlands, where it becomes clear to Lucas that if he ever hopes to win the heart of an irresistible force like Skye, he’ll need to resurrect the fearless fighter he used to be.

He’s falling hard for Skye, but can he again fall in love with life?


Beneath Wandering StarsCBA and BWS2017 Winner of the Colorado Book Award!

What People Are Saying

“Cowles, a former Army brat, shows an intimate understanding of military life and uses her characters to examine its difficulties … the toll combat takes on soldiers, and other complicated topics … .Teens for whom war hits close to home are a natural audience for this hopeful story of journeys internal and external.” – Publishers Weekly

“After her older brother, Lucas, is wounded in action … 17-year-old Gabriela Santiago decides to honor a promise to her brother by walking the Camino de Santiago [in Spain]… .Gabi’s convincing teen voice guides readers through the complexity of emotions and inner struggle. Debut novelist Cowles uses the pilgrimage to spark moments of philosophic and theological reflection. The story will open a portal to families with injured soldiers and propel conversations about war, identity, philosophy, and hardship.” – Kirkus Reviews

This is a believable and well-written tale full of references to Homer and Chaucer … .The wide range of characters … are authentic rather than idealized. Readers will feel Gabi’s pain—both emotional and physical—as she endures a host of adverse conditions along the route. A realistic fiction title that will appeal to a broad audience of teen readers.”—School Library Journal

“A novel that readers will feel they can step right into. From the details, it is clear that the author has walked El Camino and included the experiences that serve the story in a meaningful way. Readers who give it a try will be happy they did.” —VOYA Magazine

Beneath Wandering Stars is about searching, healing, and hoping. Filled with mellifluous language and a powerful message, this beautiful story will appeal to fans of realistic fiction.” —VOYA Magazine, Teen reviewer

“Ashlee Cowles brings her own life experience as an ‘army brat’ to this beautiful, hopeful story. Beneath Wandering Stars reflects on identity, family, love, and belief systems as the characters do as well.” –Bustle

“A moving tale of self discovery, forgiveness, and relationship in the great tradition of quest novels. This is only the second time I have really read a book that addressed the life of being a military kid in such authentic ways. This book was, for me, both a mirror and a window. This book further solidified for me a deeper understanding of the call for more diversity and inclusion in YA literature.” – Teen Librarian Toolbox/School Library Journal

“There’s a emotional depth to this book that is unparalleled, writing that is too brilliant for words…. This is one of the stories that stays with you, making you see things in a different light, and that makes it a book that is truly worth reading.” –YA Books Central


Beneath Wandering StarsAfter 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 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? An up-close look at the lives of the children of military families, Beneath Wandering Stars takes readers on a journey of love, danger, laughter, and friendship, against all odds.


*Want to learn more about the Camino de Santiago? Join my newsletter and receive this gift, Gabi & Seth’s Guide to Camino Cuisine!

*Already read the book? Discuss it with others by downloading these Book Club/Classroom Discussion Questions!

17 thoughts on “Ashlee’s Books

  1. Ashlee- It was really great to meet you yesterday. Your book sounds awesome, and I can’t wait to pick it up at the bookstore one day. 🙂 Best of luck! – Olivia

    1. Thank you, Olivia! It was nice to meet you too! All the best on your screenwriting project(s). If you end up having an awesome website like Danielle’s, let me know so I can follow it!:)

    1. It is. And that I believe is why I am drawn to the genre of historical fiction, the writing and the reading– because I Iove to explore the unknown and to learn about places and their histories, just like one can on a trip to a foreign country. When I first started writing historical fiction I had no idea it would be another way to “travel”, but it is, and with just as many wonderful surprises and challenges of physical travel, strangely enough. I remember the moment I realized this, a definitive “ah-ha”.

      I am guessing you feel a similar/same way about this…

  2. Ashlee Cowles, these excerpts are amazing ans so refreshing that you are putting out there some GOOD literature for our young (and old) people. Some in our family can hardly wait. Keep it up!

  3. Hi Ashlee….I can’t wait to read your novel this year….and best wishes to you in the new year!

  4. Hi Ms. Cowles! I’m so excited to read your books, they all look fascinating! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your many talents with the world!

    1. Thank you, Lydia! I really want to attend a writing conference in Seattle this October, so hopefully I’ll be headed your way soon.

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