In the Wild Light

From Jeff Zentner, the award-winning author of The Serpent King, comes a beautiful examination of grief, found family, and the young love.

About the Book

Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature.

But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to a prestigious boarding school in Connecticut, Cash must grapple with his desire to protect Delaney and his love for the home and people he must leave behind.

Change is painful, but poetry is a salve for heartbreak in this coming-of-age novel about finding the courage to change the things you can.


“This story and these characters will stay with me for a long time, and that’s fine because I don’t want them to go away just yet.” —Leigh Anne E., educator and NetGalley reviewer

“I can implore you to pre-order multiple copies for your classroom library, and prepare to lose many because this is a book kids will clutch to their chests.” —Emily A., educator and NetGalley reviewer

“Jeff Zentner has once again penned a poignant story that will teach us and heal us. Read this book.” —Janice W., educator and NetGalley reviewer “Vitally redefines friendship as something that must be protected, sacrificed for, and tended to with wisdom, patience, and love—and, to our luck, rendered in Zentner’s gemlike sentences.” —Ocean Vuong, New York Times bestselling author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

“In a word: sublime. This gift of a book will leave you with fiery, incandescent hope in your chest.” —Emily Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read

“A novel with the soul of a poem. Jeff Zentner proves yet again that he’s one of the most luminous voices writing for young people today.” —Randy Ribay, author of National Book Award Finalist Patron Saints of Nothing

“An ode to the healing power of nature and art, but also a testament to the beauty of family, both blood and created. No one else can write like Jeff Zentner.” —Silas House, New York Times bestselling author of Southernmost and Same Sun Here

🟊 “A brilliant treasure of a book that holds up a mirror to the best parts of our humanity.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

🟊 “Evocative and moving, highlighting Zentner’s impressive skill with both poetry and prose. ” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

🟊“A wise, gorgeous exploration of loss and survival that will make readers cry. . . . Lyrical and heartbreaking.” —School Library Journal, starred review

🟊 “Heartfelt and deeply moving. . . . A book that readers will unhesitatingly take to their hearts. ” —Booklist, starred review

“Zentner’s signature poetic prose is in full effect as he crafts sentences that read like sweet tea tastes and cotton feels. . . . In the Wild Light is a love letter to possibility. ” —BookPage

Random House Teachers and Librarians