ARC REVIEW: In The Wild Light

Thank you to Penguin Teen Canada for providing me with the eARC.

If you know me, you know how excited I was for this book. If you’re new here, let me tell you about just how wonderful Jeff Zenter’s books are. The Serpent King changed my life in ways I never thought a book could and Rayne & Delilah reminded me there is validity in anger while peace in move on. Goodbye Days is a story to help grieve. Jeff’s books will shape and change you for the better. So, yes, being able to review this book months in advance means the world to me.

Note: trigger warnings for drug abuse, drug-related death, and attempted assault

In The Wild Light follows Cash as he is rushed into a difficult choice to follow his best friend to an intimidatingly prestigious private school miles away from home, or stay with his terminally ill grandfather and therefore rob his friend of her chance to become the world-changing scientist she is sure to be with the help of this academy. When both of their lives have been ravaged by parental drug abuse, it’s not easy for Cash to accept what he considers a “hand-out” from his genius friend, Delaney.

Since this book doesn’t come out until August (can you say, “Happy birthday to Lucien”?!), I won’t go into too many details about the contents of this book, but I will say it will break you just as much as Jeff’s other books have (or will if you’re yet to read them). As I usually do with books that make me cry, please allow for a vulnerable moment here. 2020 was rough with pandemic life, and 2021 is proving to still be tough on many of us. One thing that In The Wild Light really struck a chord with me on was Cash’s feelings of “leaving his grandpa behind”. Pep has cancer and while Cash is given the chance of a lifetime to really become someone, that means leaving the only father he’s ever known mostly on his own.

So what does that have to do with pandemic life?

My 98-year-old grandmother means the world to me. She’s a cheery, church going Welsh woman who doesn’t have a bone in her body not full to the brim with love. Pep reminded me of her a lot with his wit and his compassion for others of all sorts even being in the deep south. I haven’t seen my grandmother in almost a full year and I used to see her three times a week growing up, and even as an adult, I’d have dinner with her at least once or twice a month. I miss her a lot even when we can talk on the phone, so Cash’s feelings hit home for sure.

In a funny way, I think this is the perfect book for these times, even with the tinges of loss. People are losing their loved ones right now, but as long as we express our love towards those people we’re missing, it’s better than nothing. Right? This is a book about doing what’s best for yourself, pushing past the impostor syndrome and the fear of failure and allowing the room for growth to breathe.

I miss my friends right now. I miss my family. But if I just keep moving forward and doing my best, I’ll get to see them again. In The Wild Light reminded me of that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve made myself cry once again.

You’re the worst best, Jeff Zentner.

REVIEW: Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinée

Back in 2016 when I was still a subscriber to OwlCrate, I received their March Writer’s Block box. Inside was a book I’d never heard of and probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own and yet I read it in about a week, crying almost the whole way through because of how much I connected to the hardships the three characters were dealing with.

That book was The Serpent King by none other than Jeff Zentner. And his debut novel at that.

Over two years later, I was lucky enough to receive an ARC from Penguin and Crown Publishing of Zentner’s newest book, Rayne & Delilah’s Midnight Matinée and for the third time in almost as many years, I found myself in tears over these characters who had me falling in love with them right from the first page.

I took my time with this one, wanting to absorb everything about it. And I was laughing every time I picked up the book while also appreciating the subtle nods to other authors as well as Jeff’s previous books. Josie (Rayne) and Delia (Delilah) run a midnight horror-host show not dissimilar to Elvira on their local public access network. Josie does it because she has always wanted to be on TV. Delia does in it the hopes that it reaches her absentee father and reminds him of her existence. And then there’s MMA fighter, Lawson, who has a wicked crush on Josie and also guests on their show to display his fighter moves as a segment of his own.

To be honest, I don’t actually know how to review this book other than just saying, “I loved it, please go pre-order it now (available February 2019).” Because we still have so long before the release I was going to do a “pre-review” (like with what I did for Bookish Boyfriends) but I just can’t bring myself to simplify what I have to say.

The Serpent King got me to let go of a lot of anger at being left by my own father at a very young age and, boy, let me tell you that if this had been the book in that OwlCrate box, my life would have taken a very different turn. Because of what I’ve been through in both being very much disconnected by family and being left behind by people who I thought were very dear friends, I connect with Delia on so many levels that it was hard to get through the last few sections of the book because I was so emotional.

Jeff Zentner knows how to break your heart in the smoothest of ways so that even though you are crying for a loss, it still feels like something new is forming in it’s place. They say that when a bone breaks, that break becomes the strongest part of said bone once the healing process is finished. That’s how I feel after reading Jeff Zentner’s books as they have such deep emotional strongpoints, they can show us how to be better people. And not only in regards to how we see and treat others, but in how we see and treat ourselves. Rayne & Delilah is no exception.

I really hope that if you’re a fan, you pre-order this book through your nearest retailer, and that if you’ve never picked up one of Jeff’s books, that you consider giving this one a try.

I really don’t have many more words for how important The Serpent King, Goodbye Days, and Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinée are to me and how lucky I feel to have been able to read all of them.

REVIEW: The Serpent King

22752127If Jeff Zentner never writes another book I will be forever heartbroken.

Considering this is Zentner’s first novel, I am utterly floored. The last time I read a YA novel this intensely emotional was when I read Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’m fairly certain I cried for the entire time I was reading this book from pages 114 onwards.

Dill is so passionate and so lost but never stops doing what he truly believes to be the right thing to do. His faith is unwavering, and – speaking as someone who doesn’t have a religious bone in their body – it’s something truly beautiful. Travis is a darling, so sweet and sure of himself, even when people are tearing him down for his escapist love of fantasy. And Lydia? Bloody hell, where do I even start? She’s an inspiration of what it means to find what you love and take it by the throat. She’s proud and confident, and so real that I honestly have no idea how to truly talk about her.

The story is heavy – far heavier than I’ve typically seen in YA – and heartwrenching. It’s a devastating novel that made me laugh just as much as it made me sob.

If you read one YA book this year. Make it this one. Please.


Author: Jeff Zentner
Published: March 8th 2016
Pages: 384
Publisher: Crown Books
ISBN: 9780553524024

Synopsis: Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life – at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extremely public fall from grace. The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him.