Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 8th 2016
Purchase Links Amazon
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.
The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy.
Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.
Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and at times comic view of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible Belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one’s true self in the wreckage of the past.
Wow. I will admit that when I originally heard about The Serpent King, I didn’t think it was a “me” book. But, all of my friends were raving about it, and I saw it at ALAMW, so I figured that I would give it a shot. Let’s just say that I am THRILLED that I decided to read it, because it was amazing. I am sure that this is going to go down as one of my favorite books from 2016- YES it was that good.
Let me first talk about the characters- Dill, Lydia, and Travis. They were all misfits, people who were scorned by their peers for being weird, but to me, they were perfect. All of them had their hardships; none of them had an easy life. But, they didn’t let that stop them from dreaming. THE SERPENT KING is a coming of age story, a book that all teens should read. I am positive that everyone, no matter who they are, will be able to find something to relate to in one of the three characters.
Dill grew up in an extremely religious household. His father was a pastor, so you’d imagine that he had a pretty rule abiding family- but you would be wrong. Dill’s father was actually in jail due to charges of having pornographic material found on his computer. To make matters worse, Dill’s mother was annoyed at Dill because he didn’t take the blame for his father’s mistake. Imagine living like that- living in a house where you’re barely making rent, with a mother who doesn’t love you, and being surrounded 24/7 by your father’s shadow. It’s no wonder that Dill is extremely depressed and has no self confidence.
Travis had an even worse life- his father was an alcoholic, and often took out his anger on Travis. His parents were a strange pair- his father, the star quarterback and bully in high school, and his mother, the sweet cheerleader who was friends with everyone. Back then, everyone thought that his mom would help mellow his father out, but apparently that didn’t work out. Every time that Travis’ father was in a scene, he made me sick to my stomach. I felt awful. Travis didn’t deserve that. No one deserves that.
Now, onto Lydia. Oh my gosh- I LOVED Lydia. I honestly can see her being one of my close friends. She was a fashionista who started her own blog (yes a blogger :D) and she had hundreds of thousands of followers. She was famous to the point of being interviewed in the New York Times! But, just because her online life was great doesn’t mean anything about her real life. People at school hated her, and tried bullying her (along with Dill and Travis). Surprisingly, these were some of my favorite moments in the book, because this is where she showed off her sassy side. She was perfect. She didn’t let anyone else tell her what she should do; instead, she stood up for herself and for her friends. Her loyalty (and sassiness) made me smile and laugh multiple times while reading.
Okay, now that you’ve met the characters, I guess I can tell you a little bit about why this book really stood out to me. As I mentioned above, the characters were extremely complex, and I adored them. They constantly made decisions that I never saw coming, and I loved watching them grow up and mature into who they became at the end.
Also, there was one moment in particular where something came out of nowhere, and shocked me. I had to read the page three times in order to confirm that what I read was true. I’m not going to tell you what happened, but let’s just say that there is no way that you can figure it out until it happens, and it will blow your mind. It is insane. Jeff Zentner took a risk by putting it in the novel, and the risk paid off. Wow. I’m still recovering from it actually.
I’d also like to share one of my favorite quotes! Believe me when I say there were tons of quotes that I simply adored (and you can check out my GR status updates for more), but this one in particular really stood out to me.
“She’s it. She’s my everything. She’s the standard by which I’ll judge beauty for the rest of my life. I’ll measure every touch to her breath on my skin. Every voice to her voice. Every mind to her mind. My measure of perfection. The name carved into me. If I could, I would lie with her under these stars until my heart burst.”
Overall, if you couldn’t tell, I absolutely LOVED this book, and suggest that you hop online right NOW and buy it. It’s incredible. You NEED it!