An exquisitely written coming of age story, Wildman by J.C. Geiger explores the true beauty in getting lost in order to find yourself.
Lance Hendricks is homeward bound, four hundred highway miles from the best night of his life. There’s an epic graduation party brewing, his girlfriend will be there, and they’ve got a private bedroom with their names on it. When his ’93 Buick breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Lance is sure he’ll be back on the road in no time. After all, he’s the high school valedictorian. First chair trumpet player. Scholarship winner. Nothing can stop Lance Hendricks.
But afternoon turns to night, and Lance ends up stranded at the Trainsong Motel. The place feels ominous, even before there’s a terrible car wreck outside his room. When Lance rushes out to help, the townies take notice. They call him Wildman, and an intriguing local girl asks him to join in their nighttime adventures. He begins to live up to his new name. As one day blurs into the next, Lance finds himself in a bar fight, jumping a train, avoiding the police. Drifting farther from home and closer to a girl who makes him feel a way he’s never felt before—like himself.
This debut novel by a remarkable new talent explores the relationship between identity and place, the power of being seen, and the speed at which a well-planned life can change forever.
This is one of those reviews I hate writing, because I loved the book so much and I don’t know how to do it justice. So here’s my attempt to tell you why this book is so wonderful, and why it meant so much to me.
The time at the end of high school, is unlike any other in your life. On the cusp of adulthood, but still clinging to vestiges of childhood. About to embark on a crazy, scary, big, new adventure in your life – whether it’s college or travel or getting a job or moving out of your parents’ home. It is HUGE and you feel wholly unprepared, and yet eager all the same to take on adulthood. It’s terrifying and exhilarating, and somehow Geiger has captured that magic grab bag of emotions so perfectly within the pages of Wildman.
Through Lance, Geiger also explores the idea that a well-planned life isn’t always the life that’s meant for you. That sometimes, you have to take the Big Scary Risks to find something truly fulfilling. Something that makes your heart sing. It doesn’t always have to be big or momentous; but when those moments come for you – grab hold and don’t let go.
Geiger’s writing is exquisite, and I spent half the time reading Wildman just savoring his gift for turning a phrase or describing a scene in a whole new way. His words swept me away, and I felt like I was in that town right alongside Lance for each new moment.
And for all his accolades and his neatly planned life, Lance is far from perfect — and it’s when he begins to crumble and fall apart that he truly starts to find himself. The discovery and the result is part of what made reading Wildman such a cherished experience for me.
So, too, are the side characters introduced in the nowhere town where Lance is stuck enchanting. They are gorgeously flawed human beings, but they feel so real — and I loved tumbling into their world and spending time with them just as much as Lance.
Get lost and find yourself when Wildman hits store shelves June 6th.