Wednesday, May 10, 2017

WILDMAN by J.C. Geiger

I'm offline traveling in Wales, enjoying the final week of our UK sabbatical. The photograph above is of Carew Castle and Tidal Mill in Pembrokeshire, home county of my husband's ancestors. If you're looking for good summer reading, check out Wildman and the link below to more book reviews. Next post I'll teach you how to say bookstore in Welsh!

In Wildman by J.C. Geiger an auto breakdown strands a valedictorian in rural Washington days before graduation. Lance has a full scholarship to Oregon State University to study Business, but he still auditioned for a music school in Seattle. If he dumps his car, Lance can return home in time to party with his girlfriend, but the old Buick is all Lance has left from his deadbeat dad. In a classic teen boy dilemma, Lance must choose between his car and his girl.

What makes this young adult novel special is the strong sense of place. Inside the gorgeous cover, the story is scented with fragrant pines, motel mildew, and cheap beer. Every night a cargo train blasts through Trainsong at two in the morning. Lance is warned to get out while he still can, but waiting at a dive bar, he bonds with hard-luck young adults who jump trains for fun. A quirky young woman makes Lance question his life choices. Wildman reminded me of the TV series Northern Exposure, set in Alaska.

The setting enhanced the menacing drama:
"The road got darker, more remote. Like they weren't travelling across the wilderness so much as tunneling into it."
Although the writing was often lyrical, the voice and imagery were true to a teenage boy:
"He rifled through his stories like a deck of old baseball cards. What had he ever done?"
The unfiltered teen boy perspective was pitch perfect for its intended audience but might offend other readers. Although Lance cares the most about personality, female characters were rated by their sexual allure and a fat woman enjoying her food was observed with disgust. There was underage drinking, borderline infidelity, barroom violence, and false testimony to the police with few consequences. From the limits of Lance's point-of-view, the ending was a bit confusing, but I loved the final imagery. Wildman is a fast and fun read, which teenage boys will enjoy. After this impressive debut, I'm eager to see what J.C. Geiger writes next.

With a shift of location up the west coast, Hotel California could be Wildman's soundtrack:

Reviewer's Disclosure: the author and I share an agent, Sara Crowe. Upon my request, I received a free digital galley from the publisher, Disney Hyperion, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Wildman's North American release date is June 6th, 2017.

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@Barrie Summy


Lucy said...

I love the concept of the book but it's likely that the judgments on women based on their outer appearance would affect my enjoyment of reading the book. Good review though. Thanks!

Linda McLaughlin said...

Oh, lucky you, getting to tour Wales. Wish I could be there.

Not sure Wildman is for me, but I got a chuckle out of the girl vs. car dilemma. Enjoyed your review.

Sarah Laurence said...

Lucy, the protagonist notices appearances, but he cares about personality and character too.

Linda, I enjoyed Wildman, but it's definitely more geared toward teenage boys or to readers trying to understand that perspective. The car vs girl dilemma was classic! This book can be quite funny at times.

All, I'm traveling with limited access to the internet. I'll catch up with your reviews when I'm back online.

Powell River Books said...

Love the cover with the shoes hanging on a wire. Outside the high school in a small nearby town the power line crossing the road is loaded with shoes hanging from their laces. You would think they would disrupt power distribution. - Margy

troutbirder said...

Seems more young that adult. By high school graduation age I prefer dealing with the later more than the former...

Petra Pavlátková said...

Very interesting review, Sarah.
Isn't that true that many people judge based on appearances not on personality and character? It brings me to the question what a book should describe - the way it is or the way it should be? Surely there is not always the same answer.
Enjoy the final week of your UK sabbatical!

thecuecard said...

Beautiful Welsh countryside. Look forward to your post about your traveling adventures. The YA book Wildman sounds like a fun read. Nice review.

Sarah Laurence said...

Margy, one of my favorite covers.

troutbirder, yes, this book is meant for teens.

Petra, excellent point! I think honesty is especially important in YA. This book does a great job of being true to a teen boy's voice and the young men he befriends, but although appearances make strong impressions, personality and character factor the most to the protagonist. Still, I wish there had been a scene when the MC realized that the fat minor character was more than her weight. As it is, that passage stands out as a fat shaming cliche in an otherwise more thoughtful narrative.

cue, Wildman was indeed a fun read. I'm home now and once I've settled in, I'll blog more about Wales.

Jenn Jilks said...

Nicely done!