The Serpent King


The Serpent King (ebook)

by Jeff Zentner

AR Level 4.4, 11 points


The Serpent King is a book I’d wanted to read based on the talk that went on and on about it.  If you hadn’t noticed, I now get help choosing my books based on Twitter recommendations from some of my favorite readers.  This one was sitting in my Amazon shopping cart until I found it as an ebook at the library.  Once I heard it was nominated for awards, I decided it was time to read it.  It is in the Young Adult category, so I don’t recommend it for my sixth graders, due to the violence.  It was sad for me.

Dillard Early is a senior in high school in a very small, narrow-minded (borderline racist/bigoted) Tennessee town, and he has two best friends, Travis and Lydia.  As a side note, he is secretly in love with Lydia.  Dill’s dad is in prison for child pornography (which we hear very little about), and his dad was the preacher of a local church that believed in signs and the use of snakes to prove one’s faith.  His mother is also a fanatic, and both of Dill’s parents blame Dill for putting his dad in prison, saying he could/should have lied and said the porn was his.  Dill and his mother are very poor.  Travis lives with his parents, but his dad is an abusive alcoholic, especially after Travis’s brother died.  Travis loves fantasy fiction and meets a girl on a fan forum for their favorite series (similar to Game of Thrones).  They are also fairly poor.  Lydia is an only child with professional parents, and they have a very close relationship.  She runs a fashion blog and is applying to NYU.  These three friends only have each other, but let each other in on very little in their lives.  They have a strong bond through tough times, and these friends experience some very tough times, indeed.

What I liked about this book was that it was unusual.  Dill learned about his family name, and vowed not to live up to that name, but found himself slipping into very dark times, with his mother being against college and his father blaming him for putting him in prison.  I also enjoyed the character development, especially Travis.  He seemed to have a genuine, kind disposition, and his storyline was especially heartbreaking, but at the same time, I was really happy for him.  I didn’t find Lydia as convincing, and I wanted to smack Dill a few times.

What I didn’t like about this book… I can’t decided if I even liked it or not.  There were parts that made me want to keep reading (I read 3/4 of it in one day), but it also took me over a week to get into it.  It was slow at times.  I was tempted to stop when something particularly tragic occurred, which I saw coming, but it was heartbreaking.  I think I need someone else to read it to discuss it with me.

Book 40 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)


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