From the award-winning author of The Serpent King comes a beautiful examination of grief, found family, and young love.
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. He's been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen.
But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind.
After discovering a bacteria-eating mold in a local cave, two high school sophomores are offered full scholarships to a prestigious academy in Zentner's (Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee) tender novel of love and loss. Introspective nature lover Cash Pruitt and science-minded genius Delaney Doyle, both white, have lived their whole lives in their economically depressed Appalachian town, having met at a group for teens whose parents struggle with addiction. When Delaney's findings land her a spot at the exclusive boarding school (and she refuses to attend unless Cash is invited, too), he's reluctant to leave his grandparents behind for an opportunity that he doesn't feel he's earned. He's particularly loath to move away from his grandfather, who is slowly dying from emphysema. But he accepts, and far from the comfort of his family and the river and mountains he loves Cash begins to build friendships and develop unexpected passions, like poetry, that allow him to see the world, and himself, through new eyes. Notable is the warmth, physical affection, and gentleness between Cash and those he loves, while well-crafted poems throughout, written by Cash as he finds his voice, are evocative and moving, highlighting Zentner's impressive skill with both poetry and prose. Ages 14 up.