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. 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 know this is the BOTM for Hype or Like Friday and that I’m posting this review a week early, but I couldn’t get this book out of my head. I felt like something needed to come out and it needed out instantly. Sorry!!
I picked up this book with a very open mind. I had heard mixed reviews about this book and author, but I felt like I had to give it a go myself. I honestly didn’t expect to get as attached as I did with it.
The Serpent King is set around three teenagers who are from small-town living and constantly surrounded by religion, bullying and negativity. Dill has a bad rep from his serpent-loving, kiddo-porn hoarding pastor of a daddy. Lydia is a successful fashion blogger with big city dreams. Travis is completely content working in a lumber yard for the rest of his life, so long as he can read his favorite Game of Thrones-esque fantasy series as much as he pleases.
What I loved about this novel is how real everything was, especially the friendships. I hate seeing long-lasting friendships in novels, even shows and movies, where the friends have never fought. Never disagreed on anything. Never had a falling out. It’s so unrealistic. I enjoyed that they voiced their opinions with each other, that they argued, that they didn’t talk for weeks on hand. It made the story so relatable and easier to imagine than a group of friends who are around each other constantly and never talk back to one another. I’ve always believed that if you never argue, you should be worried. If you argue with a close friend or loved one that it shows that you care. Unfortunately for this trio, all they really had were each other.
Except for Lydia. She was the only friend whose home life wasn’t bad at all. She had a good upbringing, lived in a wonderful house. Her parents loved and adored her and took in Dill & Travis as if the boys were their own. With Dill and Travis’s home life being so rough, I really loved that there was a safe place for them to be when they needed a break. You remember how I touched on religion a few paragraphs up? The characters who are supposed to be “Christian” were the most un-Christian-like people I’ve ever come across. They were nasty and abusive. Cruel and unforgiving. Also very, extremely selfish. They were also the parents of Dill and Travis. While I loved that there was family dynamic in the novels, I hate that most of the scenes involving them were uncomfortable for me to read.
I cried. It’s very rare for me to cry while reading a book, especially one that made me cry as heavily as I did with this one. This novel is so deep, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, tragic. It will be stuck with me forever. I can’t believe I was going to pass this one up.
If you haven’t yet read The Serpent King, please do. It’s a tough read, but a very dark and beautiful one. Highly recommend if you are looking for a story about a great friendship between three outcasts.
The Serpent King by Jeff Zenter
Published on March 8, 2016 by Crown Books For Young Readers/Random House
Source: hardcover purchased myself
Genre: young adult, contemporary, realistic fiction