In JC Geiger’s Wildman, Lance’s ’93 Buick breaks down in a small-town hundreds of miles from his home, life, dreams, and future. As fate places his escape from the remote town in an eternal tomorrow, Lance slowly adjusts his begrudging attitude to the adventure and makes his stop in this town a time to remake his identity. Lance sheds his valedictorian, first-chair trumpet, future-businessman persona for that of Wildman. Lance’s struggle with his identity is rooted in his father’s abandonment but grows into an overhaul remake of who he is, or perhaps he just exposes who he always has been.
Although the voice is beautiful and modern and accompanied by an overall enjoyable read, I struggled with the book’s message for young adult readers. The journey of self-discovery surfaced as a polarized opposite of his original life plan. Ditching the traditional route and seeking happiness in other forms is an honorable feat because it entails breaking societal norms, but the manner in which this novel deals with these complex issues is where I took issue. In the end, I wondered whether Lance’s ultimate decision undermined the well-crafted nature of the story and sent a controversial message to young readers entering college. Taking the traditional route can be just as fulfilling as the romanticized adventure. But, overall, the interpretation of the message depends on who is reading the book, so I would recommend giving it a try.
J. C. Geiger