Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Date Published: March 8th 2016
Genres: Adolescence, Coming of Age, Friendship, Love & Romance, Physical & Emotional Abuse, Social Issues, Young Adult
Description: Named one of the Most Anticipated YA Books of 2016 by Paste Magazine and Popcrush.com “A story about friendship, family and forgiveness, it’s as funny and witty as it is utterly heartbreaking.” —PasteMagazine.com “Will fill the infinite space that was left in your chest after you finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” —BookRiot.com “A brutally honest portrayal of teen life . . . [and] a love letter to the South from a man who really understands it.” —Mashable.com 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. 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.
The Serpent King is what book clubs are for: to point out books I would never read on my own. I read the blurb, and was thinking to myself, no way am I going to enjoy this book. I even put off reading it until the very last minute. Literally the day before book club. And in the end, thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Three friends in a small town in Tennessee are the center of The Serpent King. Lydia is an up and coming fashion blogger. Dill is a musician. Travis is a staff-wielding fantasy reader. Lydia is going places, to New York specifically. And she’s made it her mission of their senior year of high school to make sure Dill and Travis move forward with their lives as well.
Mr. Zentner’s writing is what drew me in. The banter between the three characters felt authentic. I empathized with all three characters. I laughed. I cried. I felt joy. I felt heartache. I learned some important Dolly Parton quotes. I was highlighting whole passages of The Serpent King. Quotes like this quote from Lydia:
We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. (well, really, Dolly Parton)
and this one from Travis:
They’re [Travis’s favorite books] amazing. I forget about everything I’m not good at and everyone I’m not when I read them. They make me feel brave.
And finally these from Dill:
nothing makes you feel more naked than someone identifying a desire you never knew you possessed.
And if you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.
Honestly, I don’t know if I’m gushing over this book. But I am enamored with it. Don’t be put off by the description. Check it out for yourself.
My opinion on books at book clubs tends to be a bit lower than the group average. I don’t know why that is. Maybe I’m super picky, or maybe just difficult to please, or maybe I just like what I like and that’s that. I didn’t dislike The Serpent King, but I didn’t love it either. It was just a good read for me, like most books are, good, decent, enjoyable, but not overly so, and then we move on to the next. I’m also irritated at myself because I own this book twice now. I bought the ebook when it was on sale, hoping I could bring myself out of my physical reading funk, but then realized a few days before book club that it wasn’t going to happen. So I used a credit to listen to the book in time.
My initial short form review is: the book was kind of slow moving with a stagnant plot (and characters), and then I was super sad, and then I was better. That’s what I would tweet if I did TwitteReviews. Is that a word? It should be. Let’s make that a thing! As for the long form review, because you really want to know more than just 100+ characters worth of review right?
I really liked Lydia. She’s a cool chica with a blog (I mean, can we be besties, cause I’d so read her blog even though I’m not really into fashion). She’s wise for her years, always saying the smart thing, and the right thing, and having words full of meaning when others around her are losing their cool. I like that she goes above and beyond for her friends, doing whatever she can with her influence to make things better for them. I want to know her. I want to be her.
Dill, I can’t say for sure if I liked him at first. I did at the end when he finally had enough and started to take control of his life, but at the beginning, he was just wishy-washy and hiding under his family’s guilt and oppression. I can’t say I blame him in that situation, but he wasn’t fun to read about. I like that he’s an awesome musician who doesn’t even realize his awesome.
Travis, I liked at first and then liked even more. He’s comfortable in his own skin, isn’t at all assuming or trying to be something he’s not. He’s a bookworm, addicted to a fantasy series and carries a staff (sometimes). I mean, definitely, someone who gets teased in school, but someone you’d love to meet at a signing or convention. And takes pictures with. And geek out with. His story line was so unjust.
These three characters are stuck in a small rural town, which I think is why the plot was stagnant for so long. It was really showing their lives, where not much happened on a regular basis outside the usual high school and family drama, and yet they still found ways to enjoy themselves.
The audiobook was pretty good. I liked how each character had a new narrator voice, so you really got a different feel for each of them.
My rating: Well, more like 3.5 stars.