cover image In the Wild Light

In the Wild Light

Jeff Zentner. Crown, $17.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-5247-2024-7

After discovering a bacteria-eating mold in a local cave, two high school sophomores are offered full scholarships to a prestigious academy in Zentner’s (Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee) tender novel of love and loss. Introspective nature lover Cash Pruitt and science-minded genius Delaney Doyle, both white, have lived their whole lives in their economically depressed Appalachian town, having met at a group for teens whose parents struggle with addiction. When Delaney’s findings land her a spot at the exclusive boarding school (and she refuses to attend unless Cash is invited, too), he’s reluctant to leave his grandparents behind for an opportunity that he doesn’t feel he’s earned. He’s particularly loath to move away from his grandfather, who is slowly dying of emphysema. But he accepts, and far from the comfort of his family—and the river and mountains he loves—Cash begins to build friendships and develop unexpected passions, like poetry, that allow him to see the world, and himself, through new eyes. Notable is the warmth, physical affection, and gentleness between Cash and those he loves, while well-crafted poems throughout, written by Cash as he finds his voice, are evocative and moving, highlighting Zentner’s impressive skill with both poetry and prose. Ages 14–up. Agent: Charlie Olsen, Inkwell Management Literary. (Aug.)