The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Published March 8th 2016 by Crown Books for Young Readers
Goodreads Summary: 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.
Review: I apologize in advance for what will probably be a gushy, rambling review. I finished this book in the beginning of March and I’m just now giving the review a shot after letting the story sink in. I signed up to participate in Stefani @ Caught Read Handed‘s traveling ARC tour of The Serpent King. It was such a cool thing to be involved with. She took her personal ARC and mailed it to one person and then that person mailed it to the next, and so on. We were all encouraged to add our own page flags to the parts of the book that spoke to us so it was fun seeing everyone’s flags by the time it got around to me. I started it right away, but because of my California trip I had to put it on hold for a bit.
Once I was able to pick it up again, I couldn’t put it down. Check out my Goodreads status updates:
02/26 marked as: currently-reading
02/26 page 73 19.0% “This book is great so far. I am loving Dill and Travis especially.”
03/09 page 110 28.0%
03/10 page 151 39.0% “Almost teared up when Lydia’s dad was talking to her about Travis and his dad. I think Travis is definitely my favorite of the three.”
03/10 page 195 50.0%
03/10 page 247 64.0% “Omg I have a really bad feeling about this!! My heart is racing!”
03/10 page 254 66.0% “My heart has just been torn from my body and stomped on.”
03/10 marked as: read
Travis was definitely my favorite character. But at the same time, all three of them really spoke to me and it felt like they all had pieces that I really connected with. I think that almost anyone in the world could relate to the feelings that these characters have at one point or another.
The trouble that Dill goes through in his small town because of what happened with his crazy father is so rough. For about the first half of the book, I didn’t care much for Lydia. She seemed a little selfish and it really bugged me that she would never talk about Dill or Travis on her blog because of who they were and what they were like. But after halfway through I began to understand her more and feel more connected to her character.
This story was so heartbreaking and 100% real. I had so many emotions throughout this book. It is definitely one of my favorite books now. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the book.
“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”
― Jeff Zentner, The Serpent King
“How is it every time we’re talking about the real world, you manage to bring up fantasy, and every time we’re talking about fantasy, you manage to bring up the real world?
Travis shrugged. “My fantasies are more interesting than the real world and machines and tools are more interesting than you guys’ fantasies.”
― Jeff Zentner, The Serpent King
If you haven’t picked up a copy of this book yet, you need to because it is very good!