Audience: YA Contemporary fiction
Length: 373 pages
Author: Jeff Zentner
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads
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.
Well this was amazing. What a story. For a shorter novel, I was heavily invested in everyone’s lives and found this story raw. A great smorgasbord of religion, growing up, family, friendships, and being who you want to be.
Dill. Oh my sweet Dill. I loved his character. This poor guy got the short end of stick he never wanted. The way his character grew to the end of the book had me wanting to clap. I think I even fist-pumped once because I was so happy listening to him stand up for himself. Dill found his way through depression and grief to stand on his own and make decisions for his future that would be beneficial.
Lydia was the sassy best friend that brought another great angle to the story. She lived a bit more affluent life with pathways that she chose for herself and parents that cared for her. Lydia had another great character change over the book too. She was emotional and brave in being open to Dill. Being the friend he needed throughout the book. Even when they had conflicts, they were able to have productive talks that furthered my love for this book.
Travis was someone you wanted to root for and as relatable as Lydia and Dill were too. He was incredibly courageous and I love that he was his own person. Wearing a dragon necklace, carrying a staff, and loving a book series with his soul. And he never felt sorry for himself. Travis stood up to his demons (aka. Dad) and I just loved his character.
Watching these three really grow and change over senior year was tumultuous at best. The insane highs and lows kept me on a roller coaster of emotions. I felt the weight of this novel and story more times than once.
Overall audience notes:
- Young adult contemporary fiction
- Language: some throughout
- Romance: kisses
- Violence: physical, guns, murder, see Trigger Warnings for more
- Trigger Warnings: murder, child abuse, domestic abuse, bullying, a parent convicted of possession of child pornography, suicide, suicide ideation, grief and depression
2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner”
I chose this for my book club – friends who don’t read YA – and they were absolutely blown away. Thumbs up all around. Great review!
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Thank you! Yes, it’s definitely a YA book that even adult can enjoy.
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