In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner (ARC Review)

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 432
Release Date: August 10, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: loss of a loved one, mention of substance abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence

Every time Jeff Zentner writes a book, he puts his whole heart in it. He manages to create beauty even in the saddest of moments and oh, sad moments there always are! Whatever he writes, it just touches your soul, your entire being and won’t let you go for a long time afterwards. So, it should come as no surprise that I keep seeking out his books despite the emotional punch they pack, because they fill me with such a complex set of emotions.

In the Wild Light introduces you to Cash and Delaney, although the story is told from Cash’s perspective. Neither of them had an easy life and even when good things finally start to happen, it’s hard for them to come to terms with the fact that they deserve this goodness. In an odd way, I found that entirely relatable. I may not have faced their particular struggles, but as I continued reading, I found more and more of my own scars represented in the story. As the cast grew, I started to fall in love with all of them and would be elated to meet any one of them (with one exemption) to welcome them as a friend into my life.

This book is for everyone who has ever lost a loved one. It’s for people who have had to leave others behind in order to grow, while still holding a heart full of love for them. It’s for those who doubt that they fit in, that they deserve the good things life offers them and that there are others looking out for them. It’s for people like me, who have left part of their heart and soul in different places around the globe, tying them to friends and family and places. In the Wild Light is for those always running hungry, only ever sated by words.
This book is a reminder of the ties we share with the family we are born into and the one we chose for ourselves, even those we were separated from. It shows the importance of having people in your life that actually care to help you realize your full potential and celebrate you as the person you are. And most of all, In the Wild Light is an ode to having the courage of seeing the beauty and light even in moments of darkness.

“You are not a creature of grief. You are not a congregation of wounds. You are not the sum of your losses. Your skin is not your scars. Your life is yours, and it can be new and wondrous. Remember that.”

In the end, In the Wild Light might be my most favorite by Jeff Zentner book to date. I cried, I laughed, I felt my heart warm at the lives of these incredible characters. I’m at an utter loss for words to describe just how much this book meant to me and how much I will cherish it moving forward. Even though I could have done without the romantic sub-plot, because I really believe this story didn’t need any romantic undertones, I can only recommend it to anyone who is willing to go on an emotional journey about loss and belonging, family by blood and the found kind alike. 

Fazit: 5/5 stars! I don’t give a 5-star-rating lightly anymore, but with this book the decision felt easy. It was so worth the read!


Have you read any other books by Zentner? Do you plan to? My reviews for The Serpent King and Goodbye Days are still available (just click on the titles).

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner (eArc Review)

UK Publishing: April 6, 2017
Publisher
: Random House
Page Count
: 416

**I was provided with an eArc by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

When I first saw Goodbye Days, I didn’t even know what it was about. However, what I did know was that I needed to read it ASAP! I really enjoyed Zentner’s first book, The Serpent King, so I was over the moon when I got approved for the arc now (even though I pre-ordered it before anyway) and it was even more fun to read because I had Cátia and Cristina along on the ride!

Going into a book written by Jeff Zentner, you have to be prepared for sadness. I knew this, I hardened my heart, but I still cried multiple times. While the Serpent King was more of a punch in the gut, this was like a constant cloud of somberness following you around. There’s such an important message here – don’t text while driving! It’s what starts this mess and then unabashedly portrays the devastating aftermath. It sugarcoats nothing and goes deep into the self-blame, the anxiety, the loneliness and sometimes downright panic of the situation.

“For the most part, you don’t hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.”

I thought that most of the story was handled in a very realistic way and that it flowed beautifully. No matter how emotional or intense the book gets, it never overwhelms you. The sadness comes in waves and little punches instead, always revealing something new to you about the people Carver cared so much about and he loved those boys so very much. I enjoyed that this was a book about friendship and family, especially the parents or guardians had important roles to play and we all know how rare that is in YA these days. There might be a sort of romantic sub-plot, but it didn’t take up too much of the time and I liked how that was left in the end.

The only reason this book isn’t a complete 5-star-read for me, is that I struggled a bit with the criminal investigation. While I understand the components of guilt and blame, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the legal charges. I think it was explained pretty well, but I just don’t believe that those claims were substantial, which is also why I wasn’t entire happy with the resolution of that part. It’s really only a minor thing though, something that adds to the drama I guess.

Finally, there’s a cameo of someone from The Serpent King and it’s bit of a spoiler if you realise that person is the cameo. So, I would recommend you read the other book first, but it’s completely up to you.

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Another crazy emotional ride with Zentner.

Have you read Goodbye Days? Do you want to?

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (Book Review)

SerpentKing

Publisher: Crown Publishing
Page Count
: 370

I bought The Serpent King because I saw many (really, oh so many) good reviews for it, but I didn’t actually have a clue what it was about. The only thing I did know was that even though it has a title that 100% screams Fantasy at me, it’s a YA contemporary and apparently a brilliant one at that. Well, after reading it, I certainly cannot disagree!

I did not fall in love with this book headfirst. Set in a religious small town in the deep South of the US, you are immediately confronted with the sad reality of Dill, Travis’ and Lydia’s life. They are passionate, funny but also different, which makes them instant outsiders in their world. The whole thing was laced with this kind of inherent sadness that I just wasn’t prepared for. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading the book, but I didn’t love it, yet slowly and gradually it won me over.

Dill, Travis and Lydia are such strong characters and this book will push you down to the ground until you sob about their fate and then be the helping hand that guides you up again and shows you the better side of things. Whenever there was a truly happy instance, it got crushed immediately or vice versa. It didn’t feel like made up drama though, they may not have been conventional circumstances for all of us, but they definitely felt honest, raw and real.

serpent

The beauty of it all was that you could easily find a piece of yourself in each of the characters. I designated Lydia to be my personal kindred spirit. She’s a blogger too (even though she talks about fashion which I know virtually nothing about – that’s really only semantics) and she is so confident and quick and smart, she is the kind of person I wish I had been in high school. Travis is this incredibly sweet and darling guy, who is completely lost in the fictional world of his favourite books and seriously, who cannot relate to that? And Dill … Dill feels stuck and as if everyone is leaving him behind after graduation. They all have their hardships to face, even though I think the guys have it much more difficult than Lydia, who at least has the most amazing, present and caring parents (which is ever so rare in YA these days).

I feel like there is so much to say about this book, but I simply don’t know how to express it! A couple of unexpected things happen, especially one big twist. It felt so very twisted in the faith department and it showed so much injustice. That’s a thing I can never handle very well, because it’s so unfair and all you can do is just watch … This book definitely crushed my feelings, but it also gave me so much hope and inspiration. I will gladly pick up the next book by Zentner.

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Broke my heart into a million pieces and then mended it again.

5stars

Do you feel like picking up this heartbreaker? Have you read it already? Tell me all about it!