The Serpent King

New young adult novel featured in my newspaper column this week.

serpent king

The Serpent King

Written by Jeff Zentner

Dill, Travis, and Lydia are best friends, outcasts, and seniors in rural Forrestville, TN. Dill, the son of a recently incarcerated evangelical preacher, faces ridicule daily about his father and his faith and turns to his friends and music to cope. Travis, the son of an abusive father, finds refuge in fantasy books and online forums. Lydia, the daughter of loving parents, is an outcast in her own way and seeks escape through her fashion blog “Dollywood”. Over the course of their senior year, their friendships will be tested, as they each contemplate life after high school and where it might take them. While Lydia tries to shake the boys out of their small town resignations, they in turn cling to life just as it is. The unknown is scary, but so are snake-handling and abusive fathers.

“The Serpent King” written by Jeff Zentner captures both the struggle of youth and challenges of rural living in a resounding tale of love, loss, hope and believing in oneself. The story is slow to build, but if the reader can stick with it, this coming of age tale gains momentum and eventually finds its rhythm. Characters, at first flat and predictable, gain authenticity as the story progresses, and they become whole and complex. The author weaves a gripping story of what it means to be a teen, lost and alone in a world too big and unfair to understand. Teens from all walks of life, but especially those living in their own Forrestville, will identify with Dill, Lydia, and Travis as they each struggle against a way of life that would crush their dreams. There are many themes and good things to be said about this book. “The Serpent King” is about rising above one’s situation and courageously following dreams despite difficulties. A poignant read for anyone holding a dream in their heart.

Thank you to Net Galley and Penguin Random House for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.