*Thank you to The Novl for providing me with an ARC of this book. Some parts may have been changed as I did not read the final book. Please know that all of the expressed thoughts are my honest opinions.
*TW for review and book for mentions of self-harm*
When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis promised a great romance read, but for me, it fell short. When the Stars Lead to You focuses on Devon and is broken up into three different parts: before, during, and after. In the summer of her junior year, Devon falls head over heels in love with Ashton during a magical summer. However, as the perfect summer ends, Ashton disappears without a trace, leaving Devon utterly heart-broken. She spends the next year rediscovering herself and healing. Now, she is in her senior year, focused on her college applications — until Ashton shows up at her school. The summer comes back to Devon, and she has to decide between allowing him back into her life or if their relationship is doomed.
One of the reasons this book sounded interesting is because Devon is interested in astronomy, and it is a driving force behind the college she wants to attend. She is hardworking and determined to get into McCafferty University, which is the top college for astronomy. However, even if Devon gets in, she will need financial aid, a lot of it, to be able to attend. But she doesn't let this deter her. She and her advisor look for all possible scholarships to give her the best chance to attend. What I also love about Devon is how proud she is to be bi-racial: she isn't afraid to call people out on their "jokes." Devon felt very real to me because she has to deal with so many real-life problems. I related to her through her love of science, and while she made some questionable decisions, she stood by them. Ashton, on the other hand, was a lot harder to connect to. I believe that When the Stars Lead to You is an #ownvoices story and that Ashton is shaped after the author. To me, Ashton felt off somehow. He struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, and his family puts lots of pressure on him to marry well. I cannot put my finger on it, but something about his character felt suspicious or untrustworthy. Overall too, there wasn't too much tangible character development. There is some growth during the "after" part of the novel, but in the "during," the characters don't ever learn from their mistakes.
The overall plot also had the potential to be good. Second-chance romances can be executed in a satisfactory way. I haven't read too many, but I have liked them. This book did not have a good second-chance romance, unfortunately. As some other reviewers are saying, everything just felt too unreal and rushed. The insta-love that they had over the summer was so suspicious. They met one night at a party, and then by the next week, they were spending entire days together. It moved swiftly, taking me out of the story. Of course, when Ashton disappears without a trace at the end of summer, Devon is distraught. But, when she sees him again, they seem to fall right back into the same routine. What frustrates me the most is that no one around Devon spoke up about how unhealthy their relationship was. It was taking a significant toll on Devon and her life, but it isn't addressed until the very end of the book. There were also some unrealistic scenes and conversations that felt strange. (I'll be going over that next.) The one thing that I did enjoy about this book, however, was how sex-positive it was. Devon's mom took the time to sit down with her and discuss Devon's choices in a non-judgemental way. Consent was talked about, creating an overall positive scene. Racial issues were also discussed. Ashton comes from a white old-money family who doesn't accept Devon due to her skin color. She is faced with blatant racism from his parents because of it. I think that she was able to handle it well. Devon knows to stand her ground, especially in issues regarding her race. In general, though, there were many parts in the story's plot that didn't sit well with me, which significantly impacted how much I enjoyed it.
The writing also fell short for me. It wasn't memorable as there wasn't anything extraordinarily or poorly written. What I remember most about it are the conversations that felt scripted and unnatural. It was mainly when Ashton and Devon were talking about his depression, but there were other times, where I had "huh?" moments. The conversations were just not things I could see someone saying. I don't know if it was due to the sentence structure or the word choice, but I couldn't imagine myself saying some of the things that were said.
To conclude, When the Stars Lead to You was a promising book. I adore strong female leads and the premise sounded like a sweet read. Yet, it didn't meet my expectations. Everything seemed a bit too rushed (in particular, the relationship), keeping me from fully immersing myself into the story. What I did enjoy was the fact that it was a #ownvoices story and that it talked about the racism and microaggressions that Devon faced. When the Stars Lead to You was also sex-positive, which I believe is super important in books like these. I am glad that I read this book, but I don't know if I would recommend it. I would recommend it, however, to people who like to read books covering real issues, second-chance romances, and insta-love.