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The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
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The Serpent King (2016)

by Jeff Zentner

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I received a free copy of The Serpent King from the publisher through Goodreads -- thank you!

No, seriously, thank you. Because wow, this was one heck of a book.

The Serpent King follows three teenagers during their last year of high school in a small southern town. Dill's father, a Pentecostal pastor, is serving time for child pornography, leaving Dill to grapple with his own identity, religious beliefs, place in the town, and future. Lydia runs a fashion blog and has big dreams and a way out... but her privileged life sometimes drives a wedge between her and her friends. And finally, there's Travis, an absolute sweetheart with an abusive father who escapes into sword-and-sorcery fantasy books and carries a staff everywhere he goes.

This is an absolutely beautiful book about the last leg of school; about the promise of everything changing or the suffocation of nothing changing; about getting out of a town you hate but belong in, or not getting out.

This is a book to read slowly and savour. The writing, and the characters, and the melancholy bring-of-change feeling will linger long after you've turned the last page. ( )
  bucketofrhymes | Dec 13, 2017 |
"And if you're going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things." Pg. 327

The Serpent King is written in three different perspectives: Dill's, Lydia's, and Travis'. Normally I'm not interested in reading multiple POV books as some tend to get confusing and thus boring, but this book wasn't hard to follow at all. In fact I had a hard time putting this book down. Jeff Zentnar tells a beautifully tragic and yet inspiring story that I feel almost anyone could relate to in some way or another (the most simple way of just being young and trying to figure what to do with their life).

This story follows three best friends through their senior year of Forrestvile highschool of a small town in Tennessee. These characters reminded me so much of my two best friends, of whom I've been close to since before my highschool days, not so much because of their personalities but because of their strong, loyal and non-judgmental bond. Dill, Lydia and Travis have very different personalities and backgrounds but all formed a beautiful friendship with each other.

Some of these characters home lives and family problems are heart breaking. And though they do things to aid or help them escape these issues (reading a fantasy book series, praying to god, being determined to be successful enough to leave their home town, etc) they find an escape and a shoulder to cry on, so to speak, with each other. They give each other the support system some of them lack at home and desperately need. They help each other overcome their fears and encourage each other to be brave and do things outside of their comfort zone. They're generous with each other, with the CDs they gift each other, and of course, I have to mention Lydia's gift to Travis- every bookworms dream, and so much more. They stand up for and have each others back. Their friendship and love save each other in a sense.

Jeff Zentnar will completely break your heart and put it back together with this contemporary story. Each of these characters found a place in my heart with their colorful personalities, deep struggles and never ending friendship. The Serpent king touched me on a personal level and I honestly can't remember the last time a book ACTUALLY moved me to tears. I believe this book will stay with me for a very long time.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that Jeff Zentnar is a song writer, musician, and worked with so many awesome bands. As cheesy as this may sound, it shows in this book. This debut novel is gripping, deeply moving and unforgettable.


**** SLIGHT SPOILER WARNING ****


This book is overall very moving but, for me, the most moving part of this book is when one of the characters tragically dies. A very good friend of mine passed away earlier this month (non violently but still passed just the same) and with the risk of making this review grim and depressing I'd just like to say that I feel like I read this book at an appropriate time in my life. When I came to this tragic scene and what follows after I thought I wouldn't be able to read this book anymore. I'm happy that I saw this book to its end because seeing how the other characters learned to cope with their loss and, though struggling, moved on and tried to be happy again was inspiring. This book really hit home with this tragic event and I thought it'd leave me feeling depressed but it oddly didn't and for that I'm thankful. Its a another reminder for me how precious life really is and how powerful and amazing a strong friendship can be. ( )
  Stories_to_live_by | Nov 29, 2017 |
RGG: Beautiful. Eleanor and Park set in the contemporary South. The Pentecostal religion of one of the main characters, and his imprisoned father for child pornography while worked into the plot is somewhat of a red herring to an amazing story of teenagers trying to escape their circumstances. Reading Interest: 14-YA.
  rgruberhighschool | Nov 20, 2017 |
RGG: Beautiful. Eleanor and Park set in the contemporary South. The Pentecostal religion of one of the main characters, and his imprisoned father for child pornography while worked into the plot is somewhat of a red herring to an amazing story of teenagers trying to escape their circumstances. Reading Interest: 14-YA.
  rgruberhighschool | Nov 1, 2017 |
RGG: Beautiful. Eleanor and Park set in the contemporary South. The Pentecostal religion of one of the main characters, and his imprisoned father for child pornography while worked into the plot is somewhat of a red herring to an amazing story of teenagers trying to escape their circumstances. Reading Interest: 14-YA.
  rgruberexcel | Nov 1, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 055352402X, Hardcover)

The Serpent King is a book you won’t be able to resist or forget. The Southern boy in me savored every syllable and the reader in me fell in love with every page.” —John Corey Whaley, National Book Award finalist and Printz Award winner
 
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.
 
He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.
 
Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 23 Jul 2015 20:18:54 -0400)

The son of a Pentecostal preacher faces his personal demons as he and his two outcast friends try to make it through their senior year of high school in rural Forrestville, Tennessee without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self.… (more)

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