In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner; narrated by Michael Crouch
Release date: August 8, 2021
Cash and his friend Delaney are barely surviving in their small Appalachian town. Cash is being raised by his grandparents after his mother succumbed to opioid addiction, and Delaney is running from drug dealers and an unstable home while working at Dairy Queen. A small but profound scientific discovery by Delaney gives her leverage to earn them both places at a prestigious boarding school. Cash is torn between going and leaving behind the grandparents who have raised him and grabbing the otherwise unattainable opportunities the scholarship would give him. Convinced by Delaney to go to the new school, he discovers his inner poet, and goes through many coming of age experiences.
Cash’s warmth, unsurety, gentleness and love come through in his voice and poetry. His grief while watching his Papaw slowly dying from emphysema is shared profoundly with the reader. Crouch’s narration demonstrates these feelings perfectly with his cadence and his voices bring all the characters to life.
Readers who loved The Serpent King will find Zentner’s same powerfully emotional writing here. For another coming of age story of a family dealing with opioid addiction try Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Find other excellent grandparents in Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, and Donuts and Other Proclamations of Love by Jared Reck.
Other Nominated Titles
- Flash Fire by TJ Klune; narrated by Michael Lesley (July 13, 2021)
- Starfish by Lisa Fipps; narrated by Jenna Lamia (March 9, 2021)
- Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford; narrated by January LaVoy and Carole Boston Weatherford (May 18, 2021)
The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.
Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are available on The Hub.