Title: The Serpent King
Author: Jeff Zentner
Publisher: Anderson Press
Synopsis: 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.
Review + Discussion: I read this book because a friend of mine read it, loved it and said I had to read it as well because I’d love it. And oh man, was she right! This book was sad and uplifting and it gave me SO MANY FEELS.
We follow three characters in this book: Dill, Lydia and Travis and the chapters alternate between their perspectives. I’ll be completely honest, I wasn’t the hugest fan of Lydia throughout the whole novel. From the very start she bugged me, I just didn’t think she was a good friend. She was always caught up in her blog and the people she knew in New York. Lydia has gained internet fame through her blog Dollywould and is planning to attend NYU with two girls, one being an actress and the other being the daughter of the editor of Lydia’s favourite magazine. But we did see her go through a whole lot of growth and she’s a lot different in the end.
I loved Travis this whole novel. He was a cutie patootie and my absolute favourite. He was such a good friend despite everything he was going through at home. He loved disappearing into Bloodfall, the fantasy book series he was obsessed with, and taking his staff everywhere. I just loved reading his chapters and he also went through a lot of growth as well, though it doesn’t really come through until the end. His love of Bloodfall leads him to finding Amelia in the online forums, a girl who he’s never met but connects with anyway. I really loved seeing Travis and his interactions with Amelia as opposed to those with his friends. Travis is a character that’s going to stay with me for a long time.
Dill was pretty much the main character of this book. His dad, who was a pastor, is serving a prison sentence for possession of child pornography. Dill is stuck in his small, religious town dealing with the aftermath of what his father did. Dill went through the most growth out of any of the characters. I can’t say too much without spoiling but I will say he became such a strong person and I really came to like him, despite not being his biggest fan at the start.
The three main characters of this novel each have an outlet for escape. Lydia escapes to her blog Dollywould which is gaining more and more attention. Travis escapes to Bloodfall and the online forums which lead him to finding Amelia. Dill escapes through music, by playing his guitar and writing songs. I think one of the biggest things I liked about this novel is that these characters were all quite different but they fit together so well.
I absolutely hated almost all the parents in this novel. I despised Dill’s extremely religious parents and Travis’ abusive father. I liked Lydia’s parents though, who were always extremely accepting and supportive of Dill and Travis despite the reputations of their parents.
The writing style in this novel wasn’t anything fantastic, but Zentner built such an amazing world with these characters. I loved being in this novel and I found it so hard to put it down because it just completely sucked me in.
This is a story of friendship and love and loss. Of chasing a better life and succeeding. I loved this novel and I just can’t recommend it enough. It was fantastic.