The Serpent King
by Jeff Zentner
“And if you're going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”
In the dark pinewoods about an hour outside of Nashville, there are three teenagers about to graduate. They are all dreamers, in their own way. Travis, a gentle giant who dreams of writing fantasy novels. Lydia, who runs a fashion blog and dreams of going to school in New York. And Dill Early Jr., who isn’t sure what his dreams are, just that they might involve music and not getting left behind by his friends. Jeff Zentner’s debut young adult novel The Serpent King is a Southern Gothic masterpiece and a heartbreaking coming-of-age novel.
Dill is the son of a Pentecostal snake-handling minister. When a scandal lands Dill’s father in jail, everyone in the town blames Dill, including his own mother. It takes friends as loyal and brave as Lydia and Travis to stand by his side and see his true worth. The Serpent King examines religion in all its multifaceted incarnations. The characters that Zentner creates are vibrant and real; they feel like people that the reader might actually know. The setting in this book is a live and breathing entity as well. The South, for all its prejudices, is a place of beauty. This story could not have taken place in any other location.
“Dill thought for a second. He looked out at the river, at its eddies and swirls, the patterns forming on its surface and disappearing. He listened to the ordered chaos of its sounds. The moon ascended, Venus beside it. On the horizon below, a radio tower rose into the indigo sky, its red lights blinking lazily. A warm evening wind carried a breath of honeysuckle and linden from the banks. A train whistled in the distance; it would soon rumble over them with sound like waking up to a thunderstorm. He was a tuning fork, made to resonate at the frequency of this place, at this time.”
Find yourself laughing, crying, and wanting to reread this book over and over again, with Dill, Travis, and Lydia along for the ride.