(Review) The Serpent King
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Pages: 384 (hardcover)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
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.
I'm having mixed feelings about this book. I didn't dislike it, but I wasn't overwhelmed by it either.
Dill and his friends are growing up in a small, close-minded town. Dill's father is currently serving a prison sentence for a stash of kiddie porn, his mom is working her ass off, and Dill is just trying to survive with Lydia and Travis.
Honestly, I didn't really like any of these characters at first. Lydia is kind of a jerk, Travis is a lump, and Dill is depressing. I get that they're teenagers stuck in small town life, but still. It took me a while to actually care about what was happening to any of them.
Once you get into it, the story is fairly easy to follow. I felt like this was a long book for such a simple plot. It's also told from each person's POV, so that was a little different than what I normally read. Eventually I liked Dill as a character the most. He's depressed, but for good reason. Everyone in town has basically shunned him and his mother. He wants to get out, but he doesn't want to leave her alone and that kills him.
Lydia and Travis grow on you, but only a little. Travis is a good friend, but Lydia is a little annoying. She has a good life and doesn't understand a lot of what the boys go through.
You do get to see all three of the characters grow throughout the story, especially Dill. He has his music and that helps him to come alive a little bit more.
The twist toward the end was pretty rough. I had an idea of what it would be, but I was kind of surprised and I wasn't crazy about it. I felt like that part of the book could have gone differently, but here we are.
All in all, this was a decent coming-of-age story. By the end I was proud of Dill and the decisions he made. He grew on me, just a little.