The Serpent King
by Jeff Zentner
Published: March 8th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover (384 pages)
Dillard Early, Jr., Travis Bohannon and Lydia Blankenship are three friends from different walks of life who have one thing in common: none of them seem to fit the mold in rural Tennessee's Forrestville High. Dill has always been branded as an outsider due to his family heritage as snake handlers and poison drinkers, an essential part of their Pentecostal faith. But after his father is sent to prison for sexual abuse of a young parishioner, Dill and his mother become real pariahs. His only two friends are Travis, a gentle giant who works at his family's lumberyard and is obsessed with a Game of Thrones-like fantasy series (much to his alcoholic father's chagrin); and Lydia, who runs a popular fashion blog that's part Tavi Gevinson and part Angela Chase, and is actively plotting her escape from Redneckville, Tennessee.As the three friends begin their senior year, it becomes clear that they won't all be getting to start a promising new life after graduation. How they deal with their diverging paths could cause the end of their friendship. Until a shattering act of random violence forces Dill to wrestle with his dark legacy and find a way into the light of a future worth living.
I don’t usually like contemporary novels, but I really enjoyed The Serpent King. I felt like it was about making your own destiny. It was also a poignant reminder to not wait too long to follow your dreams.
“And if you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”
-Jeff Zentner, The Serpent King pg 327
The characters had interesting personalities. Lydia was great. She has this blunt personality that I really love. For example, she’s late and says she’s sorry but Dill calls her out on it. Lydia replies:
“Of course I’m not [sorry]. But I have to pretend. Social contractual obligations and whatnot.”
-Jeff Zentner, The Serpent King pg 5
Lydia is also a blogger which I thought was cool. She also says things like this that can’t help but love:
“We didn’t drive all this way to eat at dumb Krystal and get the same diarrhea we could get in Forrestville.”
-Jeff Zentner, The Serpent King pg 20
Reading The Serpent King felt like reliving that bittersweet feeling of high school where everything is ending and your friends are going different directions in their life. You’re excited to start your life but sad that so many things are changing – especially losing a lot of your friends. I really related to Dill’s feelings about wanting Lydia to go on and have a great life while trying his best to deal with the fact that he probably won’t see her anymore. It’s a beautiful story that really tugged on my heartstrings.
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