Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on March 8th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
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.
He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.
Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner Review!
All the Feels, Thoughts, and Ponders:
“Do you ever think about how weird it is that Earth is hurtling though the black vacuum of space, where here it’s like a thousand below zero and meanwhile we’re down her sweating?”
“Talking to his father made Dill feel like he was talking to a sentient brick wall that somehow knew about Jesus.”
“‘I can be up many asses at the same time. Multiple asses. I cause rips in the space time continuum with how many asses I can be simultaneously. Stephan Hawking had to come up with a parallel universe theory to explain my up-asses omni-presence.”
“…nothing makes you feel more naked than someine identifying a desire you never knew you possessed.”
“A train whistled in the distance; it would soon rumble over them with a sound like waking up to a thunderstorm. He was a tuning fork, made to resonate at the frequency of this place, at this time.”
“‘That wouldn’t be a bad way to die.’ Lydia said. ‘Giving off light for millions of years after you’re gone'”
“…’People live quiet lives and that’s okay. There’s dignity in that, no matter what you may think.'”
“They listened to the river. Dill wondered if it existed before any humans had lived and died at its banks. He wondered if it sounded the same then. He wondered what it would sound like when the last human died. Rivers have no memory; neither does the soul, or the air.”
“Why would God make such a universe in someone and then destroy it?”
“If he could be still enough, all the world’s motion would cease. The orbit of the Earth. The dance of tides. The march of rivers to sea. Blood in veins. And all would become nothing but her perfect temporary thereness.”
“They went to the Column, where they stole a few more quiet minutes together, listening to the river wear its way deeper into the Earth, the way people wear grooves into each others hearts.”
The Feels and Ponders:
Let me just start off by saying that I was graciously sent this ARC through a tour hosted by Stefani at Caught Read Handed, and I don’t think I can properly express my gratitude!! This novel was amazing. I read it in two days, and cried through at least a whole box of Kleenex. It broke my heart, did the Mexican Hat Dance on my feelings, and patched it all together again. This needs to be on every teen/young adult/adults TBR right next to books like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Because, YES, everything within it was that profoundly moving.
What made it so amazing, you ask? Well, questionable reader, I will tell you. This novel deals with three teens in rural Tennessee, just trying to deal with the hand of cards life dealt them. Lydia, Travis, and Dill are best friends. They have HILARIOUS dialogue, great chemistry, and such a genuine friendship. Twenty pages in, and you will have already fallen in love with each of them. Lydia, for being just like every other fangirl – persistently authentic, sarcastic, loving, and flawed. Dill, for observing, loving, and not evaporating into thin air when he has every right to. And Travis, for being the sweetest, doe-eyed BFG this side of the train tracks. The novel is told in rotating PoV and gives the reader the perfect balance of Omnipotent third person, along with specific inner monologues of each character.
Zentner’s writing style throughout is breathtaking. I think what I liked most about the way he wrote was that he didn’t make Lydia, Dill, or Travis sound any different than someone in their situation would have. Each character’s voice was SO STRONG, I could see them standing in front of me. Nothing about this novel is far fetched. It’s raw, optimistic, and just so true to what it’s like being seventeen. I remember having those same thoughts, those exact same awkward texting conversations, the same life altering epiphanies.
Zentner expresses that unique teen-profoundness-of-the-world feeling uniquely in the course of this story. It actually reminded me alot of TS Elliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” (now this could be the English Major in me talking, but hear me out! I promise it will all make sense) There is a stanza in that poem that (I personally feel) animates exactly what it’s like to be a teenager. Its:
I feel like the above stanza, and Zentner’s novel express that feeling. The all consuming, where do I fit in the world, I am so small and the world is so big, cloud of doom that somehow emerges upon you around your sixteenth birthday. Zentner’s story explores the answers that question for you. Where do you fit? Well, right here of course. Didn’t you notice? Or were you too busy getting in your own way? I think it is so easy to forget what that process is like. You are either over the bridge, or right before it. Staring across this great precipice of unending opportunity and uncertainty. As someone who considers herself over that bridge, I completely forget what it’s like figuring how to walk across. Lydia, Dill, and Travis brought back those feelings to me in the best way. Dill measures his life in tea spoons, Lydia asks “do I dare disturb the universe?”, Travis knows the voices, dying and falling, dying and falling. As a reader, I felt so much during the course of this novel. The exhilaration you get from finally doing things you said you always would. The utter defeat that eats at you when it all inevitably blows up in your face. The determination that sweeps over you once you’re reminded to pick yourself up, dust off, and try again.
That process of juvenile try, fail, try, fail, try again is so necessary to life. You come out on the other side feeling like you’ve just discovered a whole new state of being. The people that get you through that, eternally play a role in who you are. The Serpent King is one of the most accurate portrayals of seventeen year old life that I have ever read. I was blown away by Dill, Lydia, and Travis’ struggles. Their journey to self discovery was persistently heart wrenching, inspiring, and eye opening. I wish I had had this novel when I was sixteen.
My dear reader, do yourself a favor and pick this one up once it’s out. It will take you on such a wild journey of self discovery, love, tragedy, and adventure. Zentner pleads with you to disturb the universe. Listen to him, read, and follow. Because you will seriously never want to turn back.
Will you pick this one up once it’s out? Have you ever dared to disturb the universe? Let me know down in the comments, or find me on Twitter @Lizalee_ 🙂