The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner


Dill's father is in jail for an unspeakable crime. Shunned by the neighbors in their small religious Tennessee town, Dill and his mother try to make ends meet.

Dill’s only respite from poverty and prejudice are his two friends: Lydia and Travis. Travis is an oddball, finding sanctuary from his violent father in his obsession with an epic fantasy saga. Lydia is fast-talking and fiercely creative, pinning her hopes on her achingly cool fashion blog. Dill fears his heart will break when she escapes to a better life in New York.

Dill wants to get through his final year of high school in one piece. But there’s a dark secret at the heart of his family, a serpent poisoning his blood, filling him with despair. Dill must confront this legacy of madness and desperation before it tears him apart.


Okay, so, I expected to like this. In general, Goodreads and the blogosphere seems to love it. But I didn't expect to sob my face off like I did. I was just minding my business, thinking, "this is good. I like it--not love it, but it's nice." And then BAM! TEARS.

I cried for an embarrassing amount of time, reading through the tears because I needed to know how the story would end. That's when this book became something special to me.

I loved Dill and Travis. They were well constructed and well rounded and well everything. Beautifully crafted. I felt that they felt and I wanted the best for them in every single way. But unexpectedly, I saw myself in Lydia. We are both very focused and very passionate, and very stubborn in those ways. I, too, left my small hometown for the big city, and I didn't care who I left and didn't understand people that wanted to stay there. There's nothing wrong with my hometown--it isn't racist swamp like Forrestville--but still, I was like her. And when she got so haughty with her choices, I wanted to strangle her and it made me feel guilty. I didn't have the social standing that she had, but I still kind of looked down on others who wanted a quieter existence and stay in my hometown. So that was a nice crisis of character for myself.

I also really enjoyed Zentner's writing. It was simple, but so relatable and genuine. And then sometimes he would whip out this quote that knocked you flat on your back. The emotions in this story were so well executed, and I applaud him for it.

Overall, I think this could easily be enjoyed by all. I think it has a lot of important messages about grief, acceptance, and finding your own path in the world. I highly recommend it.

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