Wild by Hannah Moskowitz is a brilliant YA book that talks honestly about diversity, relationships, and the possibility of literally running away from your problems.
Zack Ramos is training for two things: being a parent to his twelve-year-old sister once his mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s (the same kind he and his sister each have a 50% chance of developing–but let’s not think about that) progresses too far, and running a one hundred mile race through the mountains of Tennessee. His support system is longtime girlfriend Jordan Jonas, who’s sweet, sarcastic, and entirely virtual. They’ve been talking for years but still have never met in person. Because Jordan, it turns out, was still waiting for the right time to tell him that she’s Deaf.
The revelation brings them closer together, and Zack throws himself into learning sign language and trying to navigate their way through their different cultures. But with the stress of a tumultuous relationship, a new language, a sick mother, and his uncertain future, there’s going to be a breaking point…and it might be out there in the Tennessee wild.
Once again, I completely forgot to write up this review after reading the book. I must stop doing that!! Apologies if any details are vague, I am trying very hard to get out of this terrible habit.
First of all, this is such an INTENSELY diverse book: Zack is Filipino and his girlfriend Jordan is a Deaf Jewish/Guatemalan woman. They are also both bisexual, which made me extremely happy! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where both characters in the relationship are bi. That’s so strange to me, because my relationships have only ever been with other bi people! (A note: the bisexual and Jewish representation are own voices).
I found myself learning a lot during the course of this book, along with Zack. There’s a great scene where he’s complaining to his friends that Jordan hadn’t told him that she was Deaf, and his Hearing privilege is swiftly called out on. This is only the second book that I’ve read about Deaf culture, and I also learned a lot about the experience of being a teen care-giver.
As a Hearing person, I obviously don’t have an accurate view about the depiction of Deafness in this book. I went looking for reviews by Deaf people, but unfortunately I couldn’t find any. If you know of any own voices reviews, please let me know so I can link them here. However, I did find a really great article by Disability in Kidlit about how to write a visual language such as ASL on the page – I would seriously recommend checking it out!
I also really loved the characters as teenagers – Zack in particular really reminded me of my boyfriend in the way he uses exercise/running/physically pushing himself as a way to try and escape. I loved his relationship with Jordan, and how realistic it is, particularly for teenagers their age. My one complaint about the book is that it was so short! I could have read a good 200 pages more about Zack and Jordan.
Wild is the first of Hannah Moskowitz’s books that I’ve read, but I am incredibly excited to read lots of others – her dedication to accurate diverse representations is amazing, and her ability to write believable teenagers is absolutely unprecedented.