Title: The Serpent King
Author: Jeff Zentner
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Crown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: January 5th 2017
“Writing is something that you can learn only by doing. To become a writer, you need an imagination, which you clearly have. You need to read books, which you clearly do. And you need to write, which you don’t yet do, but should.”
I’ve lost count of the times The Serpent King has been recommended to be ever since it was published last year, and I still don’t know why it took me this long to finally pick it up. When I first heard about this novel by Jeff Zentner, I had actually somehow mistaken it for a fantasy story (probably because of the title)… But it is actually a very powerful contemporary fiction read I sure wish I would have read sooner. I can definitely understand why so many people seem to love The Serpent King now! This novel is without doubt exceptionally well written with an intriguing plot and well developed, interesting and highly likeable main characters. I loved all three friends, but especially Lydia and Travis stood out for me. As for the plot, I was a little worried about the amount of religious talk included when I first started it, but that soon went to the background. Beautifully written, realistic and basically an emotional rollercoaster… Warning: The Serpent King will mess with your heart, so make sure to have your tissues ready! It doesn’t happen often that a book is able to make me laugh and cry at the same time, and I’m sure this story is going to stay with me for a long time. More than recommended for fans of the genre!
Dill has been struggling with vipers his whole life, both at home and at school. His father is a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, although after his very public fall from grace he is currently locked away in prison. At school, the bullies are after him for that exact fact, teasing him for his father’s extreme faith as well and claiming he will grow up to be exactly like his father. The only way to feel better is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But things are starting to change as they start senior year. Lydia is full of ideas for her future, but for Dill graduation is more like the end of his life as he knows it…
When I first heard about this book, I guessed wrong it was going to be fantasy novel. And I’m actually sort of glad it isn’t, because The Serpent King is without doubt a very powerful, original and well developed contemporary fiction read. Even though the start was a bit slow, I loved the prose and the character development right from the beginning. It was really easy to connect to the main characters and the things that happen to them will have a huge impact on you as a reader. The Serpent King is basically a well written emotional rollercoaster; make sure to keep your box of tissues at hand!