In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner is a masterpiece of young adult literature. It is a book that I will pull off the shelf time and time again in the future, to remind myself of how remarkable it is when an author can take the simple twenty-six letters of our alphabet and transform them in the most beautiful ways. This book is a love song to friendship and family, to poetry and quiet moments. It is a reflection on the power of grief and the resilience that can be found in all of us. It broke me apart and put me back together again, and left me a better person for the experience.
In the pages of this book, Zentner provided me with my favorite kind of story. Not one driven by its plot, but by its characters. Each one is so well-developed that it gave me the feeling that I knew them personally. His descriptions of the sights and sounds and smells of Cash and Delaney’s rural Appalachian hometown are so vivid that it seemed I could feel the water of the river flowing over my feet while standing on its bank, hear the rustle of wind in the trees from Papaw’s porch, smell Mamaw’s cooking.
Normally when I review a book I like to include a quote that stood out for me. I will not be able to choose just one from In the Wild Light. I highlighted more passages while reading this than I ever have before. It seemed that almost every page contained a line or a paragraph or even just a few words that I wanted to remember. This was the first of Zentner’s books that I have read, but it certainly will not be the last. Five stars, though I wish I could give it more.