The Serpent King – Jeff Zentner
YA – Contemporary
Published March 8th 2016 by Crown Books
Finally after what seems like forever, I finished a new release that actually exceeded my expectations! I kept hearing so many good things about this book that I was almost afraid to read it because there was no way I was going to love it as much as everyone said they did. Well, I’m excited to announce it was actually better than what I hoped it would be and helped me get out of my reading rut!
Set in small town in Tennessee that was named after some KKK guy, the story takes place over the course of a school year as 3 friends deal with their last year of high school.
Dill, the only son of a minister who urges his parishioners to handle copperheads and drink poison and was recently sent to prison, faces constant bullying at school and home. He and his mom are drowning in so much debt that she can’t wait for Dill to quit school and go to work full time. His only saving grace is his friends Travis and Lydia. Lydia comes from the opposite type of family of Dill. Her parents are loving and very supportive of everything she does, and well-off for the area. However, Lydia’s problem is she can’t conform, she runs a fashion blog to showcase her eclectic taste and graduation will lead to amazing things for her as she hopes her blog is her ticket into NYU. Travis is content where he is. He obsessed with a book series similar to Game of Thrones and hangs out on fan forums where he meets a fangirl he begins to fall for. He is big guy and his drunk father is constantly berating him about not playing football so besides for Dill and Lydia those books are his best escape from it all.
As it becomes more apparent that their lives are heading into different directions, they have to come to terms with the fact graduation may lead to the end of their friendship as they know it. These three friends try to make it through their senior year without letting their town destroy their hope for the future.
Guys, can I just gush about this book forever?! What stuck out to me first was the writing. I was hooked on the characters immediately and even though they were deeply flawed I was still rooting for them and felt invested the entire time. As much as Dill is the main character, I really connected with Lydia and Travis as well because they were so well fleshed out and felt like actual people. All three of these characters grow and fluctuate and their style is never what defines them, it is just an extension of them (if that makes any sense lol).
For as enjoyable as this was, it was a tough book to read at times. Especially for Dill and his family situation and everything else. The parents were so abusive and awful it was tough. I think what remained great about it though was that as much as other people (Lydia) was adamant that Dill needed to get away, it was still tough for him. I really liked the depth it went into about how hard it actually is to cut out toxic people that you care about from your life. It’s one thing to say it and know it’s what needs to be done and another to actually do it. I really appreciated that it was an inner-dialogue/battle for Dill on what he should do because he didn’t want to die in that town but he also loved his mom regardless because she was his mom.
While I just made this story sound incredibly dark, I promise you it is not. It’s definitely not a happy story but the ending does leave you with hope.
“Nothing makes you feel more naked than someone identifying a desire you never knew you possessed.”
“Writing is something that you can learn only by doing. To become a writer, you need an imagination, which you clearly have. You need to read books, which you clearly do. And you need to write, which you don’t yet do, but should.”
“That wouldn’t be a bad way to die…giving off light for millions of years after you’re gone.”
“Wanting to believe something is powerful”
Well I read this in a day because I am a weirdo and gave it a 5 on Goodreads so there’s that. Mostly now I’m just bummed that I borrowed it from the library and will now have to spend money on it since it is one I can imagine myself rereading (especially during the summer).
All in all, I would definitely recommend this book to everyone who loves contemporary fiction, YA fan or not.