the serpent king

Book Review: The Serpent King

For some reason I thought The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner was about video-games prior to starting it. I have no idea why I thought that, because it couldn’t have been further from the truth. Instead, it was a beautifully told story of three friends trapped in the prejudices and ignorance of a small-town in Tennessee, the pain of broken families, and the horrors of high school life when you are the outcast.

Book Review: The Serpent KingThe Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House on March 8th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Narrator: Michael Crouch, Ariadne Meyers, Ethan Sawyer
Length: 9 hours and 7 minutes
Format: Audiobook

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.

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bible thumping, small town blues-ing, and friendly commiserating

What I loved: 

  • The three perfect friends: Lydia, Travis, and Dill have formed a beautiful friendship despite their striking differences. There friendship is the story, and it is amazing.
    Lydia Blankenship: She’s a fashion blogger with a big internet presence. She lives with a wonderful family and has dreams too big for her small town. Her narrative is hilarious and her attitude about life is perfection.
    Dillard Early Jr: The son of a serpent-handling, tongues-speaking, imprisoned preacher who fights the darkness that his father’s arrest left behind. He’s a timid, young man who struggles to find his own path and strengths in a world outside of his broken, indebted family. He’s the underdog you root for throughout the entire novel.
    Travis Bohannon: A young man who would rather live in the fantasy world of his favorite novel than in the darkness of his home where his drunk father is constantly comparing him to his deceased brother and a mother who is too meek stop him. Your heart will break over and over for this sad, but lovable character.
  • The darkness. This is a young adult novel, but there is plenty of unhappy and dark things that happen that are definitely “adult” themes. You don’t read this book and feel like you’re reading something light-hearted and easily digested. You’re going to tear up when reading this book. You just are.
  • The audiobook combined with the multiple POV. I listened to this book and it was excellent. There are three different narrators for the characters, since each chapter is narrated by a different friend in the trio. I love when audiobooks have different actors, because it makes it feel that much more real. This one did not disappoint.
  • The story itself. The plot is simple: dream and strive for a better life. Get out of small-town Tennessee. Achieve. Move outside your comfortable boundaries. Be brave. It’s a story line that resonates greatly with me, and I felt it was well executed in The Serpent King. Maybe it’s a little young-adultish in that it’s overly simplified, but I didn’t mind that at all.
  • The ending. I loved how this book ended. This is depression and darkness throughout this story, but you finish with light, and you will love it.

There isn’t much to say about what I didn’t like about this book: I can’t think of anything. I thought it was really a well done book, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes to read coming of age stories that involve darker themes, beautiful friendships, and hope.

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Have you read The Serpent King? What were your thoughts? What books can you recommend that are similar?

Get it here: Amazon. Barnes & Noble. The Book Depository.

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  1. Ahh I’m so so excited for this!! I just bought it and omg so many people highly recommend it that I’m just ridiculously excited. I need to push it up higher on my TBR. The fashion blogger is already making me happy because yay for blogging representation in books!😂 I’d love to read a book about a book blogger someday, tho, but fashion will have to do for now. ;D

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

  2. I’ve read The Serpent King, and I thought it was one of the best books that I’ve read. I can imagine the audio book version being a great choice for this, because of the multiple points of view with the three characters. I did have a hard time reading this after a certain heartbreaking incident in the book, and I can’t remember the last time I cried so much while reading. Definitely one of the best books of the year!

    1. OH MY GOSH. That part was killer. And the little blurb that occurs right when it happens is so heart breaking. I’m getting chills just thinking about it. The other day I was at Barnes and Noble and I found the book and opened up to that part just so I could read it with my own eyes (rather than listen to it), because it was so perfectly sad.

  3. I’ve heard really great things about this book, but I haven’t picked it up yet! I heard that the audiobook was really good so I’m excited to see that you listened to this. I really prefer when each character has their own narrator so I love that. Thanks for the great review! (I especially love the way you format this!).

  4. I like the sound of this. I have been seeing the book around but I never really knew what it was about although I assumed that it was horror. It sounds like a great read and the friends sound great. Wonderful review!

    1. It’s a really lovely book! The cover is incredibly misleading I think? We are not the only ones who have assumed incorrectly what it’s about!