Jeff Zentner’s In the Wild Light is a coming-of-age story that follows Cash Pruitt and his friend Delaney Doyle as they prepare to leave their tiny Tennessee town. Growing up in Sawyer, Tennessee, has come with its challenges for the teens, both of whom lost mothers to the opioid crisis that ravaged their community, and both coming from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. But, when the pair make the scientific discovery of the decade, they each receive a scholarship to the prestigious Middleton Academy in Connecticut. This leaves Cash with a difficult decision – leave behind the town he loves and his dying Papaw or let Delaney, his best friend in the world, leave Sawyer without him.
This book would be a great addition to any high school classroom library. Zentner is able to masterfully capture the complexity of tragedy and loss, the confusion that comes with first loves, and the comfort of home. This book explores themes of belonging, relationships and resilience which will resonate with many students. It should also be noted that this book has some profanity, explores issues of drug addiction and has one scene depicting a sexual assault.
Matt Whipple is a BEd student at the University of New Brunswick. He can often be found adventuring outdoors or coaching youth sports.