The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Digital Audiobook narrated by Ariadne Meyers, Ethan Sawyer, Michael Crouch
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on March 8, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 372 pages or 9 hours, 7 minutes
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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.
The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.
I hear tell that this book was very hyped, and somehow in my book blog travels, I missed all that? I knew almost nothing coming into this book, and I’m grateful for it, because if I heard a bunch of squeeing and dancing and excitement… I think my review would have been a lot different….
The Serpent King tells the story of three outcasts in a small Tennessee town. Each one has a different personality, a different struggle… and a reader is bound to fall in love with one of the three, if not all of them. First, you have Dill Early, who was raised in a Very Religious household, whose father is in prison, and who struggles under the weight of his cursed name. Lydia runs a very successful fashion and lifestyle blog, but what makes her popular online makes her unpopular at school. And Travis, the gentle giant who escapes into the world of epic fantasy. All very different, and yet… all the social pariahs and all three loyal friends.
My character of choice was Travis. A word of warning – Travis is a terrible choice of a favorite character in The Serpent King. No spoilers, but yeah. So Travis was my favorite, because he had this lilt to him that reminded me of my first boyfriend, who I am still friends with. In fact, I was ready to text him and say, “Hey, you should check out The Serpent King! One of the main characters reminds me of you. 🙂 ” before… Halfway Through the Book When Stuff Happened.
I am so tempted for spoilers.
The point it, this book is interesting, but it laid out its cards too early. There was a huge twist at about halfway through, and I wasn’t expecting it, and it was good… but that was all that happened. I kept waiting throughout the last 40% of the book for a crescendo that never arrived. As a result, the end chapters felt anti-climactic. You wanted to be happy for the characters, but it was so hard to care about them when you feel like there have been broken promises.
The Serpent King does deal with grief and healing a little, but these are largely side notes. There was excellent potential late in the book to address depression in adolescence. While it was managed well enough, it was only another detail in the story, rather than a platform. I know that sometimes, books are just books… but I really wanted to see Zentner address Dill’s depression more thoroughly rather than a brief scene and a three sentence wrap up later on.
I’m wondering – the title. With a title as intimidating as The Serpent King, is anyone else disappointed that the grand title only had a minimal part to play? I kept waiting for it, and was really disappointed in the use of the family legend.
I don’t know guys. I’d say that as an overall book, The Serpent King was just okay. It had some interesting characters, but didn’t really offer me anything that I haven’t seen done before, and done more successfully for my tastes. I think that contemporary readers will enjoy it, and it’s a good book for John Green fans.
For the record, I am a John Green fan, and this didn’t do it for me. I think it’s more for you Looking for Alaska sorts. 🙂