When the Stars Lead to You


By Ronni Davis

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 27, 2021. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Nicola Yoon meets Jenny Han in a heated first-love romance about two teens who are torn apart one summer by prejudice and mental illness, and find each other once again.

Eighteen-year-old Devon longs for two things: The stars, and the boy she fell in love with last summer.

When Ashton breaks Devon’s heart at the end of the most romantic summer ever, she thinks her heart will never heal again. But over the course of the following year, Devon finds herself slowly putting the broken pieces back together.

Now it’s senior year and she’s determined to enjoy every moment of it, as she prepares for a future studying galaxies. That is, until Ashton shows up on the first day of school.

Can she forgive and open her heart to him again? Or are they doomed to repeat history?

From debut author, Ronni Davis, comes a stunning novel about passion, loss, and the power of first love.


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YOU’D THINK SOMEONE WHO WANTED TO STUDY THE STARS would know better than to wish on them. There was no logical reason for me to put so much hope in exploding balls of hydrogen and helium, especially since they were millions of light-years away. But it didn’t matter. Every single night, I turned my head toward the sky, closed my eyes, and dreamed.

Like right now, sitting on the beach during the summer solstice, watching Arcturus rise. The red giant, twenty-five times bigger than the sun, burning brighter than every star in the northern hemisphere, both awed and terrified me. But it also somehow comforted me. Made me feel safe. So I gave him one simple wish: that I’d have the best summer ever.

My cousin Stephanie and her family lived at the beach year-round. Her parents owned one of the souvenir shops and a restaurant here. It was just a few hours’ drive north from my hometown, so I visited every year while my parents did non-church-affiliated (they really wanted everyone to know that part) missionary work in Honduras. If they knew the things Stephanie and I got up to (boys! parties! kissing!), they probably wouldn’t have been so quick to let me go every summer.

I loved these quiet nights before the tourists took over. The tide rolling in, the cool Atlantic waves splashing over my ankles and making me shiver. Pretty soon, they’d be splashing over my knees, then my thighs. I buried my toes in the sand. I liked the way it tickled when the surf carried the grains from under my feet. And I loved the stars scattering all over the sky like diamonds against blue velvet.

This was the dream life.

“Yo, Devon,” Stephanie called. “Come here. I want you to meet someone.”

And then there was reality.

My cousin fancied herself a matchmaker, but she had no clue about the type of guys I liked. I barely had a clue about the type of guys I liked, because I got attracted to so many different kinds. Tall and skinny with pale skin, dark hair, and hazel eyes. Dark-brown skin, deep brown eyes, and locs. Tan skin, dimples, blue eyes, and blond hair.

Two things I did know: He had to be kind, and he had to be a gentleman.

Because honestly? I was sick of kissing a guy only to have him dragging my hand to his pants ten seconds later.

The firelight threw shadows over Stephanie’s silvery-blond hair, making her look almost unearthly. Two boys stood with her, both in silhouette, both holding plastic red cups.

“Devon! Get your booty over here,” she commanded.

I groaned, but I trudged over anyway. “Hey, Steph.”

“About time.” She thrust a red cup into my hand, then threw her arm around me and grinned. Her cheeks were already flushed, her breath warm and boozy. “This is Todd and his cousin Ashton.”

“Nice to meet you,” Todd said. Polite, but clearly way more interested in Stephanie. I couldn’t even blame him. She was adorable; short and curvy with dark-green eyes and a tiny button nose. Completely opposite of Todd, the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome, with piercing blue eyes and jet-black hair. They looked good standing together.

Then I turned to Ashton.

Sweet six-pound, five-ounce baby Jesus.

It’s so clichéd, but there was a reason those clichés existed.



Gorgeous. With a capital G.

I had never, ever seen anyone like him. Straight nose, wide mouth, full lips that were slightly pouty. Impossibly clear skin with the tiniest hint of sunburn coloring his cheeks. His short bronze-colored hair was wavy and thick, and my fingers tingled with longing to get tangled up in it. Everything on his face was in proportion, and yet he wasn’t shiny-perfect. His ears stuck out a little too much and he was a little too skinny. But that was okay. I didn’t mind thin guys. Plus, there was something different about Ashton. A stillness—major contrast to the whooping and hollering around us. And his eyes. So intense. So mysterious. A deep, deep brown that invited me to dive in and get lost.

So I got lost.

Falling, falling, spinning somewhere I’d never been before, but a place I knew I wanted to be. I tried not to stare, but he was staring at me. The world melted away, leaving only me and him and the crashing waves.

“Hey,” he said with a gentle smile. His teeth were perfectly white and straight, the result of either amazing genetics or thousands of dollars of orthodontia. With his track record so far, I was betting on the former.

“Hi,” I said breathlessly. Breathlessly. I was breathless. What was going on?

“So… Devon?”

“Yes,” I managed to get out. Seriously? His voice was smooth with a touch of gravel, like how velvet would sound if you rubbed it against the grain. Oh my God. Chills. Everywhere.

“I’m Ashton. Nice to meet you.”

I had a weakness for perfect handshakes, and Ashton’s was just right. Not so hard it crushed my hand, but not one of those limp noodle ones, either.

“Todd and I are going to get refills,” Stephanie said, finally breaking Ashton’s hold on me. Yeah… forgot she was even there. “You guys want?”

“I’m good.” Ashton raised his cup, which was almost full.

He was still looking at me.

“So am I,” I said.

I was still looking at him.

“We’ll leave you to it,” Stephanie said, then she and Todd were gone.

I raised my eyebrow when Ashton poured his beer into the sand. He blinked at me and blushed.

“I don’t drink,” he explained. “Your cousin poured it for me, and I didn’t want to be rude.”

“No worries.” I shrugged and poured my own beer into the sand. “I don’t drink much, either. She never remembers that.”

His eyes scanned the entire length of my body, then met mine head-on. This boy was so checking me out… and I could tell by the way his lips parted that he liked what he saw. I’m sure I was looking at him the same way. Because oh yes, I definitely liked what I saw. He must have had terrible-smelling feet or something because there was no way this guy was this perfect.

“So, Devon,” he said again. “Hi.”

I grinned. “Hi.”

He covered his eyes and scrunched up his nose. “Oh my God. We did this already.” He peeked at me through his fingers. “Sorry.”

Adorable. “Your first time here?”

He shook his head. “My family first brought me when I was five, but I barely remember it. So I have no idea what people do around here. Besides the obvious stuff, I mean.”

I shrugged. “Not much, to be honest. I like to walk on the boardwalk or go swimming. Lots of parties, if you’re into that sort of thing.”

“More into video games or taking pictures,” he said. “Sometimes I go horseback riding.”

“You have a horse?”

“His name’s Leander. I’ve had him since I was eleven. So, five years.”

Ashton was sixteen. Like me.

He pulled out his phone and started scrolling. Really? Minus ten points for that. I hated when people couldn’t stay off their phones for five stinking minutes. Weren’t we having a conversation?

But then he said, “This is him,” and held his phone out to me. Immediate guilt for going off in my head.

“He’s incredible. Is he an Arabian?”

Ashton smiled at his phone. “Yeah. He’s great. Do you have a horse?”

“I like them. But no.”

“Oh. That’s too bad.” He dropped the phone into one of the pockets on his cargo shorts.

“Plus, my cousin says I keep to myself too much,” I said. “I have a best friend… but if I had a horse I’d never hang out with people.” I buried my pink toenails in the sand. “She likes to tease me.”

He looked perplexed. “Why?”

“Why do I keep to myself or why does Steph tease me?”


“I’m a big nerd. It’s why she’s always introducing me to people.”

His gaze was steady. “I’m glad she introduced us.”

I shivered all over. “Me too.”

He looked down at the sand, then caught my eye again. “Do you wanna come with me to get some ice cream?”

A warm, fuzzy feeling spread through my entire being. “I’d love to.”

His face broke into a slow grin that made me want to melt right into the sand. Then I grinned. We stood there grinning at each other like goofballs until my stomach growled.

Laughing, he held out his hand. “Come on, let’s go handle that monster.”

I let my fingers intertwine with his.

My summer was already looking promising.


THE FIRST WEEKEND OF THE SUMMER SEASON—ONCE THE tourists were good and ingratiated—was always epic. You couldn’t walk two feet without bumping into a rip-roaring party. But pick the wrong one and it could ruin your entire summer. Too much beer, people vomiting at your feet, hooking up with the wrong person, STDs. Terrible decisions all around.

Lucky for us, Stephanie always managed to find the right parties. The ones on private beaches with a full bar instead of just a keg. The ones with actual DJs instead of someone’s random playlist that always had a Chicago song on it for some reason. The ones where the hosts actually served food like hamburgers and crudités instead of just chips… or nothing at all.

Tonight, we strolled—fashionably late—into an enormous beach house blasting music so loudly the wicker furniture jumped to the beat. There were people everywhere, not that we could see them very well. The only lighting came from the twinkle lights and LED candles and a fancy show from the DJ booth.

“You made it!” Tall, Dark, and Handsome was back, pulling Stephanie and me into a group hug. He was damp, smelling like chlorine. Cold droplets from his hair dripped onto my back, making me shiver.

“We made it,” Stephanie said, then turned to me. “You remember Todd?”

“Of course I remember,” I said. But I remembered his cousin more. Had it just been last night that we met?

“This is my buddy Justin’s place, but I’m the official host. Because Justin’s a bitch-ass bitch who doesn’t even have a fake ID.” Todd turned to me. “Make yourself at home, help yourself to anything.” To Stephanie, he said, “You come with me.”

And great. Now I was alone.

The best and worst part about tourist season was that the faces changed constantly. Meeting new people was always cool. And if a hookup was disappointing, chances were high I’d never see the dude again. Bad because if you did find someone you liked hanging out with, they’d likely be gone in a week. Then you’d have to start all over.

But I loved the possibilities. Anything that happened could be life changing. And tonight, everyone was new.

I grabbed a soda and wandered around, letting the beats soak into my bones and make my body sway. Sweat dripped down my neck as the house heated up from the warm bodies getting caught up in the music.

I made my way out to the pool, where the air was only slightly cooler. A heat wave had kicked off this morning, and the humidity soaked my hair and made the curls shrink into tight spirals. I pulled my hair up into a big pouf, letting the slight sea breeze cool my back.

I was watching a game of beer pong gear up when a voice came from behind me. “You are here.” My heart sped up at the sound of the low, gravelly rumble that had played nonstop in my brain for the last twenty-four hours.

I whirled around and there he was. An oasis in the midst of noise, sweat, and cigarettes. “Hi.”

Ashton smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I thought Todd was bullshitting me. So when you said you were busy tonight… it was this?”

I never said anything. Steph hijacked my phone, telling me something about making you wait three days.” Even though she hadn’t made Todd wait three days. But whatever. No way was I going to admit to Ashton that I kinda hoped I’d run into him here.

He frowned and shook his head. “I don’t get those rules. Seems like if you want to see someone, just see them.”

My knees weakened. “You wanted to see me again?”

His gaze was solemn. “Wasn’t it obvious?”

“Ashton!” A girl popped up beside him and shook out her long blond hair. “I can’t believe you’re actually here!”

He gave her a closemouthed smile. “Here I am.”

“You should come sit with me.” She licked her pink glossy lips. “Over there.”

She didn’t even acknowledge my presence.

“I’m good.” Ashton stroked my thumb, sending flutters clear up my arm.

With hard eyes, the blonde gave me a once-over that almost canceled the goose bumps from Ashton’s touch. Then she turned back to him, all warmth and smiles. “Next time.”

My skin prickled as she sauntered off. Then I glanced at Ashton. “Who’s she?”

“I met her yesterday. I think she’s staying a couple houses down from us.”

“Do girls always act like that around you?”

You were going to make me wait three days.”

I tilted my head. “Would you have waited?”

He looked me up and down, then his gaze met mine head-on. “Without question.”

Holy shit.

We sat on a patio love seat and watched guys toss girls into the pool. People stumbled in and out of the hot tub, holding red cups full of God knows what.

“The people-watching.” Ashton shook his head.

“I know.”

He leaned back and stretched, slipping his arm around my shoulders. I laughed so hard I almost dropped my soda. “Seriously?”

His broad smile made his entire being light up. “You’re not pulling away.”

I snuggled into his shoulder. Mmm, he smelled so good—cool and clean, like a fresh waterfall. “I guess not.”

We watched a group of girls take selfies in front of the pool. A guy to the left of us offered a hit off his bong, which Ashton refused. Then he squirmed. “I always feel so out of place at these things.”

I nodded. “I used to love parties. But now? Give me Netflix and junk food, please.”

“Exactly! Okay. If we were watching Netflix right now, what would be on the screen?”

“Hold on. Is this a Netflix-and-chill situation, or are we actually watching something?”

“It’s a legit binge session.”

“Hmm.” I twirled a stray curl, thinking. “What do you watch with your friends?”

“My best friend and I like totally different things,” he said. “He likes to watch people eating weird shit. I watch sitcoms. What about you? What do you watch with your friends?”

“Romantic comedies,” I said without missing a beat. “But what would I watch with you?” I tapped my lip. “Since we don’t know each other that well yet, I’ll say something funny, like stand-up. But not raunchy stand-up. Because that could get awkward.”

“Makes sense. I like it. And we’d have popcorn and M&M’s and chocolate chip cookies.”

“Yes! Perfect!” I snuggled closer and intertwined my hand with his. “I wish…”

I could smell the mint on his breath. Could practically taste the saltiness of his skin. “What do you wish?” he whispered.

I never got to finish that thought. A loud crash came from just inside the door, followed by a lot of yelling. Then the beer pong game got louder, the splashing in the pool got rowdier…

“… and someone just puked in the hot tub.” Ashton frowned, his face a slight green.

“I think that’s our cue.”

He squeezed my hand. “Let’s get out of here.”

We left the party and headed down to the public beach. It was empty and dark, except for a few red lights bobbing farther down the shore. We found a quiet spot right in front of the dunes. I kicked off my sandals and stretched my legs. Arcturus had long set by now, but there were still so many other stars.

The cool sea breeze felt good on my warm skin. My entire body flushed because Ashton and I were alone. Even if nothing else came out of tonight, I wanted to kiss him. So much.

“I have to know all about you,” he said to me.

“Ask me anything.”

“I’ll start small. What’s your favorite color?”

“Purple. But not any purple. More like a mix between lilac and lavender silk with sunlight shining through it.”

He scrunched his nose. “That is oddly specific.”

“What’s yours?”

“Changes with my mood, I guess. Green or blue when I’m calm, red when I’m pissed.”

“So if I see you wearing red, I should steer clear?”

He laughed, showing off those perfect teeth. “I don’t know if it’s that deep. What music do you listen to?”

I traced swirls in the sand with my toes. “My best friend turned me on to classical, but I also like R & B and pop. And sometimes I listen to show tunes.”

His face lit up. “Like Broadway?”

“My dad plays the cast albums all the time. Rent is my favorite.”

Hamilton for me. It’s so good. But I like Rent, too.” He started humming the melody to “One Song Glory.”

“You have a good humming voice,” I said. “Do you sing?”

“All the time.” He gave me a pointed look. “When I’m alone.”

“One day you’re going to sing for me,” I said, “and you’re going to like it.”

He bopped my nose. “We’ll see about that.”

“What other music do you like?” I asked.


“What is it with white boys loving hip-hop? You don’t rap, do you?”

“God, no. Rapping is not my lane. I just listen and learn.”

I nodded in appreciation. “Okay.”

He grew serious, his eyes still on mine. “Tell me more.”

This time the words came easier. I told him about how I visited my cousin here at the beach every year. I told him my favorite foods (sushi and sub sandwiches), that I loved burning incense, and that I hated the sound of people chewing. That I earned the money for my first telescope by doing odd jobs for my neighbors, and that I loved being an only child. I told him how I cried every morning my first week of kindergarten, and about the time I wet myself in second grade because mean old Miss Bradley refused to give me the hall pass.

“I’ve never told anyone half this stuff,” I admitted.

He brushed a curl behind my ear. “I’m glad I was the first.”

It was silly and weird and a bit scary how the words flew out of me like butterflies, even when I was recounting my most embarrassing moments. How he seemed interested in getting to know me instead of only interested in getting off.

“I want to ask you one more thing,” he said.

“Go for it.”

“Say we’re watching Netflix, but now we know each other way better. What would you binge with me?”


He paused. “Seriously?”

“The ones about the universe and space.”

He nodded slowly. “I get it. That stuff’s cool.”

I picked up some sand and let it fall through my fingers. “You think so? Because I want to tell you something else about me.”

Ashton leaned back on his elbows. Totally relaxed. “Go for it.”

I took a deep breath. “I love the stars.”

He sat up again and fully fixed his attention on me. So I kept going. “I live for the stars. And one day, I’m going to be an astrophysicist.”

He smiled in wonder. “Wow. You’re beaming. I love it. So is astrophysics like astronomy?”

“It’s a part of it. It deals more with the nature of heavenly bodies. Things like what galaxies, red giants, and black holes are made of. How long they’ve been out there, and what they mean for us, as humans. Or I can go all theoretical and focus on things like time travel.” I wrapped my arms around myself. “I want to solve the mysteries of deep space. And I want to discover new worlds.”

His mouth shaped into an O. “This has got to be the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“I can go on and on,” I warned him. “You might not think it’s so cool then.”

“Try me.”

So I did. I talked about the stars and physics and deep space. I talked about all the things I’d have to study, like geometry, calculus, and physics. “I want to get my doctorate,” I said.

Ashton’s expression was steady. As if he actually gave a damn about what I dreamed about. Most people glazed over when I got too into it. But he listened.

He nodded, his eyes still on me. “Dr. Devon.”

“Kearney. Dr. Devon Kearney,” I said.

“Devon Kearney, PhD,” he said, smiling. “Has the perfect ring to it. I can’t wait till you get there.”

“If I get there.”

“You will. I believe in you.”

That’s when my physical attraction shifted into something more: I wanted to be his friend, too.

I lightly poked his shoulder. “If I’m spilling all my secrets, it’s only fair you tell me all yours.”

“But you know that means we’ll have to spend more time together,” he said. Then he got really quiet. “I’d like that. A lot. Would you?”

I didn’t even hesitate. “I would.”


MOST PEOPLE PROBABLY THINK WAKING UP AT THE CRACK of dawn during summer vacation is plain nonsense, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Every morning, I let the lightening sky kiss my eyelids until they fluttered open, then I bounced out of bed, ready to embrace the day.

The kitchen was quiet while I poured hot tea into a to-go cup. Then I grabbed my beach bag and headed down. The sea breeze blew curls around my face, and the rising sun warmed my skin while showing me a sky full of pastel swirls.

Morning yoga, in my opinion, was the very best yoga, and I loved doing Sun Salutations while dawn bloomed.

Every day, once my practice was over, my stomach would announce itself in the most obnoxious way, so I’d head back for breakfast. By now, the household would be up. Uncle Steven already off to the restaurant to fire things up for the morning rush. Aunt Susan hopping onto her bike to start her day at the souvenir shop. Stephanie frying bacon and scrambling eggs, grumbling about having to be up so early (to help in her mom’s souvenir shop) even though by now it was already 8:00 AM.

Except today, she was smirking when I walked in the door. “Someone’s here for you.”

“What? Oh!”

“Hi,” Ashton said. He was sitting at the kitchen table, flipping a fork through his fingers. “Sorry for randomly showing up like this. I couldn’t sleep, so I took a walk, and…”

“You just happened to end up here?” Stephanie’s eyes flashed with mirth.

“Something like that,” he murmured, then turned to me. “Do you wanna hang out?”

My breath quickened and I tingled all over.

Because, um. Hell yes.

“I need to grab a shower, if you don’t mind waiting a bit,” I said.

Stephanie set a plate of food in front of him. “This should keep him busy.”

Quick shower. Brush teeth. Hair in ponytail. Throw on bathing suit with sundress on top. Comfortable sandals. And… go.

Ashton had just put his clean dish in the rack when I came back out. I grabbed a muffin, then turned to him. “Ready?”

He took my hand. “Let’s go.”

“It just occurred to me,” I said as we strolled along the boardwalk, “the only things I know about you are your favorite color, you have a horse, and you like Hamilton.”

Ashton frowned thoughtfully. “Honestly, you’re not missing much. I’m not that fascinating.”

“I don’t believe that. Plus, turnabout is fair play.”

He stopped walking. “Turna-who what now?”

“You had a turn to learn about me. It’s my turn to learn about you.”

A slow nod. “What do you want to know?”

We sat on a bench. I pulled out my muffin and inhaled deeply. Mmm, strawberry. “Tell me the weird things,” I said. “Do you have terrible handwriting? Do you pick your nose and eat it? That sort of thing.”

His forehead wrinkled. “What the hell?”

“It’s important.”

“It’s gross.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Are you going to answer the question, though?”

“I don’t pick my nose and eat it, Devon. Where did you even come up with that?”

“I always wonder random things about people. For instance.” I pointed to a blond woman bouncing a chubby blond baby. “Do you think she snores? Or eats onions?”

He tilted his head sideways. “I’m going to say she snores when she’s got a cold, and she only eats Vidalia onions.”

I turned to him, eyebrows raised. “Wow. You’re better at this than I expected.”

“I mean, it’s kind of fun,” he said. “What about that guy over there? Do you think he’s ever slipped on a banana peel?”

“Totally. And he’s the type to fart and blame the dog. But. We are getting off topic. Do you snore? Or eat onions?”

“I’ll pretty much eat whatever you put in front of me, and I don’t snore. I’ve tripped over shoelaces, but never a banana peel.”

“How do you know you don’t snore?”


  • Praise for When the Stars Lead to You:

    "When the Stars Lead to You is lovely, so lovely. A diverse story full of heart and hope, truth and acceptance, that tackles the tough stuff even as it leaves you breathless. As one of the characters says, 'there is so much love here, and I didn't want it to end.'"—Jennifer Niven, New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places

  • "This debut explores all the beauty and ache of first love with so much compassion. Devon and Ashton, both on their own and as a couple, tread a rocky, soul-nourishing path to acceptance and healing. A book to be savored."—Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of Our Year of Maybe

  • "When the Stars Lead to You is a powerful debut about reaching for the stars and how to put yourself back together after falling apart. Deftly blending the complications of first love with an exploration of mental illness, Ronni Davis is a bright new voice in YA that readers of today and the future are lucky to have."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 13.0px Times}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}Rachel Strolle, Teen Librarian, Glenside Public Library District

  • "Debut author Davis provides a new take on the archetypal first love novel by tackling the impact of mental health, race, and class wars. A moving love story, timely given the pervasiveness of mental health crises."—Kirkus Reviews

  • "Fans of Sarah Dessen and Nicholas Sparks need look no further than Davis' debut for their next book crush."—Booklist

  • "Filled with passion and conflict, Davis's debut novel, [is] a modern Romeo and Juliet tale."—Publishers Weekly

  • "Readers who love a good soapy drama-romance may find their hearts a-flutter from the twists and turns of Devon and Ashton's love."—The Bulletin

  • "A unique look at love and depression."—School Library Journal

On Sale
Apr 27, 2021
Page Count
400 pages