The Serpent King

I wasn’t exactly sure what this book was about when I got it (I received an ARC with only a minimal amount of information about the plot on the back) but this wasn’t what I was expecting.  I guess part of me was expecting a fantasy novel, but this was far from it.This emotional coming of age story really hooked me quickly once I started to read it.

This story is about Dillard Early Jr. and his two best friends, Lydia and Tyson.  Dill is the son of a serpent wielding, tongue speaking wayward preacher who’s now in jail for having pornographic images of minors on his computer.  His only solace lies in his outcast crew.

Lydia is internet famous for having a fashion blog with thousands of followers, but no one in their small town appreciates her crazy fashion statements and wacky sense of humor.  Travis, a large boy obsessed with a fantasy series of novels, who’s abusive father would love nothing more in this world than for him to “man up”, has an online community of people who are also fans of the same fantasy novels he is.  Somehow, in the real world, these three very different individuals find each other in their small town of Forrestville, TN.

They went to the column together, listening to the river wear its way deeper into the Earth, the way people wear grooves into each other’s hearts.

I didn’t really think this novel was having any kind of impact on me, when suddenly I found myself tearing up.  I don’t want to get into detail here on why I teared up, but by the end of the novel, I found myself placing this in my “must reads for teens” category in my mind (as someone who works in a library, I’m always on the lookout for a book that I think can reach a wide range of teens, and I think this is one).

And if you’re going to live, you may as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.

Dill has been in love with Lydia since they met, and when they finally get together (this really isn’t a spoiler, you can feel it’s going to happen from the beginning) I smiled.  It was a joyous time, a time of first loves, of fresh beginnings, a time Dill thought would never happen.  In a review I read somewhere that Jeff Zentner is being compared to John Green, and while I feel like their writing style is different, their way of creating beautiful images and making you feel something you didn’t realize you were feeling until tears stream down your eyes, fits.

If he could be still enough, all the world’s motions would cease.  The orbit of the Earth.  The dance of the tides.  The march of the rivers to sea.  Blood in veins.  And all would become nothing but her perfect and temporary thereness.

I really feel like this novel is good for both boys or girls (because unfortunately, even at this age, there’s still a divide between “girly” and “boyish” books) and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an emotional yet beautiful novel (adults included).

-Leala

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