(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Published by Random House Children's Books on March 8th 2016
Genres: Friendship, Social Issues, Social Themes, Young Adult
“The Serpent King is a book you won’t be able to resist or forget. The Southern boy in me savored every syllable and the reader in me fell in love with every page.” —John Corey Whaley, National Book Award finalist and Printz Award winner Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace. He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy. Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.Praise for The Serpent King:"This sepia-toned portrait of small-town life serves as a moving testament to love, loyalty, faith, and reaching through the darkness to find light and hope." —PW, starred"Zentner writes with understanding and grace--a new voice to savor." —Kirkus Reviews, starred“The third-person narration manages to convey distinct flavor for each deeply personal and introspective storyline, so each character emerges as an authentic individual, flawed yet lovable, and readers will find themselves drawn by the heartstrings into their complex lives.” —Bulletin, starred“Zentner sings a song of deep pain and harsh reality, but also of fierce love and hope.” —Shelf Awareness, starred"Recommended for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell." —SLJIndies Introduce for Winter/Spring 2016 debuts2016 Winter Okra PickNamed one of "The Most Anticipated YA Books of 2016" —Paste Magazineand Popcrush.com"A promising new voice in YA." —Booklist"Zentner combines the melancholy of being 17 with the melancholy present in the best of Southern fiction and gives us a novel that will fill the infinite space that was left in your chest after you finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower." —BookRiot"The Serpent King gripped me in its coils and kept me turning pages late into the night. A triumph of love and dignity."—Stephanie Perkins, New York Timesbestselling author
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner has been on my to read list for a while and I have to say, I was not disappointed when I finally cracked the cover of this book.
We get the story from three different perspectives (Dill, Lydia, and Travis) which gives us a bit of variation throughout the book. Dill, Lydia, and Travis are entering their senior year of high school which means things will be changing for all of them. They are all considered outcasts in their small town of Forrestville, Tennessee and all for different reasons. Dill is the son of the snake-handling preacher who ended up in jail, Lydia is the opinionated girl who writes a fashion blog, and Travis is obsessed with a fantasy book series which is only one of the things his father dislikes about him. All of these things prompt others to either make fun of them or keep their distance.
I have to say, Dill was my absolute favorite character in this story. He is smart, sensitive, and cares so much for the people he loves. His chapters were the ones that brought me the most heartache as they range from painful interactions with his mother and father, struggling to come to terms with the changes that are in store for him when Lydia leaves, conversation with Travis, and the turmoil he faces every single day because of who his father is. As he struggles to make decisions about his life, it is clear he doesn’t want to hurt his parents. I hated his mother and father for the things they said to him and their willingness to blame Dill for every bad situation they created for themselves. I absolutely loved Lydia’s father for embracing Dill and being there for him however he could be. Even if it meant just giving him a ride, showing him a guitar, or listening to him talk.
The friendship these three have with each other was fantastic. Despite their differences, they had so much love and trust within their circle and they knew who they were when they were with each other. Lydia is so “in your face” about everything and while I liked that about her, I also thought she didn’t fully understand what Dill was dealing with. What I loved most about Lydia’s chapters were the interactions she had with her parents…her dad especially. It was great to see them involved in her life and the way they discussed things with her. One of my favorite parts was when Lydia’s dad sat her down to get her to see just how different her life is from Dill’s and Travis’.
Travis was a fantastic character and provided a great balance between Dill and Lydia. He is comfortable with who he is and that includes his love of a certain fantasy series of books. It is clear almost immediately he has a tough relationship with his father but he isn’t afraid to stand up for the people he loves. As a big guy he could be intimidating if he would want to be but that isn’t who he is at all…not until he is pushed to that point.
I can’t say much about what happens in the story as I think you need to experience it as it unfolds. Just trust me when I say you won’t be able to put this book down or stop thinking about it once you have finished.
Zentner has written a story that had me experiencing every single emotion. There is friendship, love, heartbreak, pain, sorrow, and hope. Yes, you heard me…hope. While there are some really tough issues written into this story, by the time I turned the last page, I had hope that everything was going to be ok for these characters. If you are looking for a moving story that will have you turning the pages to find out what will happen next with all of the characters, definitely consider checking out The Serpent King. This is a fantastic debut from Zentner and I can’t wait to read more from him!
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy!