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.
The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core (Goodreads synopsis).
“There were things Dillard Wayne Early Jr. dreaded more than the start of school at Forrestville High” (The Serpent King, Pg. 1, Sentence 1).
I went into this book not knowing what to expect–I really knew nothing about it except that I needed to read it for my book club and it had the word “serpent” in the title (which I wasn’t thrilled about). I did not like this book because books like this are not to be “liked” or “enjoyed”. This book was full of real-life sadness and horrible parenting…usually things I try to avoid in my own reading preferences. I love being in a book club because it forces me out of my comfort zone of YA fantasy.
With that being said, this book is beautifully written and I highly recommend that everybody read it. In fact, I would say it is one of the best books that I’ve read from 2016. Jeff Zentner has written characters who are so real that when you finish the book you will be emotionally traumatized–keep a box of tissues close by, I was a blubbering mess by the end. Lydia’s dad (the only father who is amazing and not terrible) has my favorite line in the entire book: “I want you to be careful in this world. My heart is wrapped up in you (pg 270).”
This book is about the power of: family, friendship, and hope. Read this book if you like: realistic fiction, books that make you cry, or books about outcasts who are trying to escape small-town life. Similar books include: Out of This Place by Emma Cameron, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and You in Five Acts by Una LaMarche. As always, find me after you read the book to discuss! -Krystal