Steve Voake's The Starlight Conspiracy is a thriller with a Science Fiction element for young adults. 14 year old Berry Benjamin's mother recently died, leaving Berry reliant on the generosity of the group of Travellers to which she and her mother belonged, living in their old blue bus. Unfortunately they're about to be moved from their site and one of them has reported Berry to the Social Services, so a Social Worker turns up with the promise of a foster home and a place at a local school. But Berry's not interested. Then she finds a birthday card left by her mother, with a plane ticket to San Francisco inside.
She decides to leave the only home she's known and head for America, but when she nearly steps into the path of a bus, an old man miraculously saves her and, despite being hit by the bus himself and then being run over by a car, walks away unharmed, although Berry's too dazed to notice. He takes her home and she talks to him; when he learns she has a ticket to the US, he urges her to take a parcel to America for him. Berry's reluctant but agrees to go back and see him the next day to let him know her decision. She tells him she doesn't want to take his parcel for him, but he slips it into her rucksack, along with a mobile phone, and two large sums of money in Sterling and dollars.
As Berry is leaving his house, a jogger comes along the lane and knocks her over. She gets away and goes back to her bus, but then some men turn up wanting the contents of the package. Berry heads to Glastonbury (for which she had tickets already), on her mother's motorbike and hides out at the Glastonbury Festival. There she meets Elle, who's two years her senior and has recently run away from his own dysfunctional home. Then the men who want the package turn up and the two of them are forced to make a quick escape. They escape over the Atlantic, but soon find themselves dodging bullets in a desperate race across America to New Mexico. But what's in the package? Why is it so important to these men? And just how did Joseph manage to survive being knocked down by a bus and then run over ?
This is a gripping book that I ended up reading until late last night because I desperately wanted to finish it. I shall certainly be looking out for more of Voake's books. This book is out on March 1 and I received a proof-copy for review from Nikki Gamble at Write Away.