Cash Pruitt is a hard-working 17-year-old from Sawyer, Tennessee, who has a hard past. Now living with his grandparents, Cash mows lawns, attends Sawyer High School, and hangs out with his best friend, Delaney Doyle. The two share heartbreaks (Cash’s mom died of an opioid addiction and Delaney’s mom is headed down the same path) and adventures (traveling on the river and digging in caves). Delaney’s adventures include discovering a new medicine in those caves, a medical science breakthrough that leads to an invitation. Middleford Academy in Connecticut offers Delaney a scholarship to the prestigious private high school, but she says she won’t go unless Cash joins her.
How does a teenager just pick up and leave the only home he’s ever known? What will happen to Papaw if he isn’t home to take care of him? Papaw will surely die from emphysema if Cash leaves. Mamaw cannot handle working night shifts and taking care of her husband all by herself. Cash’s decision to stay might just mean he’s stuck in the little Appalachian town forever, with little hope of a better future. Delaney’s decision to leave might just mean Cash loses his best friend…forever.
Packed with references to commonly recognized settings (Dairy Queen, Little Ceasar’s Pizza, the Greyhound Bus Station, New York City…), readers will relate to Cash and Delaney and their story, eagerly following the two friends to their new home at Middleford Academy. The gorgeous language of Zentner’s storytelling, especially the details of scenes and scents, make the reader stop and appreciate nature, especially the river and how it nourishes the soul. Readers will also cheer for minor characters, other students who ascend on the school from everywhere in the world, who connect with Cash and Delaney and provide a family away from home.
In a welcome surprise, references to another Zentner title will help readers reminisce — a throwback that brings one forward to hope and renewed love of story. Follow Cash Pruitt’s path from small town boy to boarding school poet, living his dreams with him. Appreciate the intelligence of a strong female character with attitude, who can kick your butt, then give you a hug in the same scene, while all along working in the science lab to save the future. Grieve your losses alongside each of the characters, and lift your head back up to see the “wild light” that is waiting for you at the end.
Thank you to Net Galley for providing this digital ARC, and to Jeff Zentner for writing yet another wonderful book that celebrates nature, family, and friendships. In the Wild Light has an expected publishing date of August 10, 2021.