THE SERPENT KINGSummary:
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.
Title: THE SERPENT KING
Author: Jeff Zentner
Source: ARC via Stefani & also I bought it from TBD
Publisher: Crown BFYR
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
I have been sitting on writing up this bit of a review for three days because I don't think I can adequately put into words how amazing THE SERPENT KING is. I am an avid reader of contemporary novels, but if you only read one more contemporary novel in your entire life, make sure it is THE SERPENT KING. I just. The writing, the characters, the feeling of moving on, it is all so beautifully done and written that I just cannot handle how amazing this is.
I think what Zentner did amazingly right in this one was give you perspective into how three people from one town can have their lives overlap in some ways but not others. When you are in a friend group of three, there will always be some things you tell one person and not the other, which is true for everyone. And this is wonderfully shown in this novel. Each of the characters has something they keep to themselves and shares a piece of themselves with the others, but not necessarily both. Their friendship is squad goals to be honest.
I kept flipping back and forth between who I liked the most with each point of view chapter. And as much as I don't really like when there are too many points of view, I think it REALLY worked here because Zentner had such a firm grasp on each of the characters that he could move seamlessly between all of them and not leave the reader waiting until we got back to a different point of view. I liked seeing how all three of the characters interacted and the ways they supported (and had a bit of resentment, in some cases) each other.
I feel like the dynamic between Dill and Lydia with him torn between being grateful for helping him try to get out of town while also feeling a bit of anger for having that support system that he doesn't have to encourage him to continue with his education was the best part of the novel. I think we all want to do better and be the best version of ourselves but sometimes it is hard when you see someone else succeed where you haven't because of something you can't control -- the family you are born into.
I also really liked how Travis and Dill interacted. They were both your typical small town outcasts: have dreams much larger than what a traditional small town can handle but don't know how to fulfill their dreams because they are Stuck in a never-ending loop. I kinda liked that they were close in a silent way whereas Lydia was the louder of the three of them. I think they fit together perfectly.
I have a lot more I could say but I don't want to be too ~spoilery~ so all in all, this was the BEST contemporary novel I have read this year. It was so raw and real and it was so easy to get lost in the lives of Travis, Dill, and Lydia and forget about your own life for a bit. I know I say this a lot when I like a book, but I do highly recommend this one. If I had to only save one book from a burning house, this would be the one. Read it!!!