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The Serpent King

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This is an Alternate Cover edition for ASIN B00ZNE17D2

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. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. 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.

Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and at times comic view of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible Belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one’s true self in the wreckage of the past.

384 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 8, 2016

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About the author

Jeff Zentner

10 books2,183 followers
Jeff Zentner is the author of two New York Times Notable Books: The Serpent King and In the Wild Light, as well as Goodbye Days and Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee. His next book, forthcoming from Grand Central in 2024, is entitled Colton Gentry's Third Act.

Among other honors, he has won the ALA’s William C. Morris Award, the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award twice, the International Literacy Association Award, the Whippoorwill Award, the Muriel Becker Award, and been longlisted twice for the Carnegie Medal. He’s a two-time Southern Book Prize finalist; and was a finalist for the Indies Choice Award. He was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start and an Indies Introduce pick. His books have been translated into fifteen languages.

Before becoming a writer, he was a musician who recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, and Debbie Harry. He lives in Nashville.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,362 reviews
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,825 followers
November 22, 2017
Warning: This review will risk some controversy! Just remember if you read it that I approach everything with an open mind and that I know that my opinion does not match everyone’s – meaning I know that we are all different and I would not argue with people on here to prove that my opinion is correct.

Overall, I thought this was a great book. It was very easy to read. The story was creative and the characters were interesting. At times, emotions ran high and it hit my feels in all the right places. I think that it is one of the better YA books that I have read recently.

Now . . . the controversy! Remember, in my profile I mention that I don’t like to get into arguments over religion. I just think this is very relevant to this book and would not mind an open discussion about it. (Trolls need not apply!)

One of the things plaguing the world recently is stereotyping religions. On TV, on the internet, in comments sections, etc. people are made to feel bad because of their religion. Also, the few people who are doing religion wrong or crazy are ruining it for the rest of us! One thing I have seen is Christians depicted as intolerant and judgmental with crazy beliefs that they force on the whole world. As part of their daily activities, they mention God and finding Jesus to everyone they meet and look down severely on anyone who does not agree with them.

I am a Christian and none of this describes me. I enjoy the solace that my religion gives me, but I don’t spend time judging others and telling people they are wrong because they are not like me. I believe in science and evolution. I feel like debates to prove whether religion is right or wrong are silly and only serve to perpetuate malice between people who have a difference of opinion. I think those of you who have known me on here for a while know that I read a variety of books, have a variety of friends, and I am kind to all. I get frustrated when I see everything blamed on Christians and worry that if people know I am a Christian they will think that I am part of the problem. But, I am not ashamed of what I am – Christianity should be about love and not hate and I try to live my life every day to make sure that describes me.

Okay . . . so the reason that I am ranting . . . this book leans really heavy on the side of Christians being intolerant nutjobs that are not very accepting of those not like them; that they are likely to do strange things in their church, molest children, refuse to let their kids be friends with non-Christians (or not be happy about it if they are), etc. I was hoping that maybe by the end of the book some middle ground would have been reached to show that not all Christianity is like that, but it doesn’t really. It makes me a bit sad because this is a great book that I could see a lot of people reading and I don’t want them to come out of it with that negative viewpoint!

Just remember – just like not all Muslims are terrorists, not all Christians are intolerant, hateful jerks!
Profile Image for Jeff Zentner.
Author 10 books2,183 followers
January 9, 2017
I wrote this book, and I'm giving it five stars--not because I think it's a flawless book. Rather, because in it, I was able to say exactly what I wanted to say, tell the exact story I needed to tell, and because Dill, Lydia, and Travis were born into the world exactly as they came to me in my mind.

I'm giving it five stars because it has resulted in my meeting the most amazing people--readers, booksellers, teachers, librarians, bloggers, reviewers, other authors--and making some of the best friends I've ever had.

I'm giving it five stars because it allowed me to reach the audience I most wanted to reach: young people.

I'm giving it five stars because it changed my life permanently for the better in more ways than I can count.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,574 reviews5,904 followers
February 9, 2016
This book just knocked a whole lot of books down on my favorites list and it's a young adult book. It's one of my top books ever and I'm terrified to review it because I'm so scared that I can't do it any justice and I want everyone to read this book.

People live quiet lives and that's okay. There's dignity in that, no matter what you may think.

Set in a rural Tennessee small town that was named after a big wig in the KKK the story takes place over one year. One year in the life of three teenagers that are in their last year of highschool.

Travis is a big guy that dresses all in black with a dragon necklace and his homemade staff. He wants to take that dang staff everywhere he goes. He is obsessed with a fantasy book series called Bloodfall and except for his two friends Dill and Lydia, he would rather live in his fantasy world and escape his abusive father.
"Rest, O Knight, proud in victory, proud in death. Let your name evermore be a light to those who loved you. Let white flowers grow upon this place that you rest. Yours was a life well lived, and now you dine in the halls of the Elders at their eternal feast."
"I had no idea those books meant that much to you Travis," Lydia murmured. "Now I fell all bad about making all those Bloodfall jokes."
"Does that mean you'll read them?"

Lydia is that free spirit. Her family is actually pretty well off and very supportive, but Lydia doesn't fit in with the small town Bible belt because she can't conform. She wears eclectic clothing and is sarcastic to almost being abrasive. She runs a blog on fashion advice called Dollywould. Lydia can not wait to get out of this hick town and take on the world.

Then you have Dill. Dill's preacher dad recently went to prison. Not for having his congregation handle copperheads and rattlesnakes or even for having them drink strychnine, but Dill's mom and of course his dad blame Dill for him ending up in prison. Dill hates life in the town and is teased and ridiculed because of who his father is. He and his mom swim in debt that his father left them and his Jesus freak mom can't wait for Dill to quit school and help her share some of the load of his father's bills. The only shining lights in Dill's life are his two friends and Lydia is leaving soon.

That is just a small peek at these characters. Because they all three are just so much more.

The author of this book writes this whole living in a small southern town to absolute perfection. The people, the setting, the smells in the air. Perfection. Then the whole having a dad in prison thing. My real life involved that and he completely wrapped me in this story. Even though my story was many years ago..I felt for this kid so much.
And depression. He describes that sinking cesspool of depression like I've never read before. If you haven't had a time in your life where you just could not get out of bed and make yourself function..this book puts you there.
But it's not just that. Don't think it's just a "head in the oven" book. It's a book about feeling trapped and moving on. Feeling you can't do what others say you can't and moving on. Standing up for yourself and moving on. It's about that light still shining.

"I read somewhere that a lot of the stars we see don't exist anymore. They've already died and it's taken millions of years for their light to reach Earth," Dill said.
"That wouldn't be a bad way to die," Lydia said. "Giving off light for million of years after you're gone."

I'm probably going to have to restrict myself from coming and looking at reviews for this book..because for the first time ever it's a book that I would want to troll someone for hating. I wouldn't do that because then I would be an asshole but I love this one just that much.
I was reading it last night and trying to keep from tears coming down my face and I looked and my husband had noticed. We are that weirdo family who make fun of each other for stuff like that...it's how we roll. He actually said he was surprised watching my face read this book. He said he had seen all my emotions go across my face. I couldn't even explain to him why I loved this book so much without sobbing. I think I am either menopausal or going crazy. I'm not a crier. I cried all through this dang book even though it's not entirely sad. The writing did that to me.

Jeff Zentner is a musician..who decided that he would write a book. It's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that THIS book is his first book. I will rabidly pick up anything this guy puts out. He wants to write something on a napkin and throw it in the trash. I will dig in that trash and treasure that dirty napkin. Stop judging me.

Everybody just go read this book so that I'll shut up. I'm embarrassing my own damn self.

Netgalley in exchange for review

Palm Springs commercial photography

I love this review for this book so much. She gets this book.

Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,573 reviews33.9k followers
June 7, 2016
This felt very much like a debut, and unfortunately, none of the characters or story arcs surprised me or touched me nearly as much as they were supposed to. Best to sample this if you're curious, as I think you can tell fairly early on if the writing style suits you.

Apparently I'm the black sheep on this one, though. Baaaaa!

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

A Note to Those Who Think This Book is Amazing: This is one of those books that seems like a magnet for people who loved it to come on and tell everyone else how great it is. Please save yourself and me the time, and just move on or write your own review rather than talking around me or down to me. I'm glad you loved it, and that you have your own space on GoodReads to talk about it to your heart's desire. I deleted the last pointed comment because I've blocked that person after a long history and her long blog rant criticizing this very short, fairly even-tempered reaction to the book as well as the comments, but I will say that I will not be nearly as tolerant going forward. Mind. Your. Own. Space.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,534 reviews32.5k followers
May 26, 2019
‘if youre going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.’

if you asked me what i took away from this story, it would be the importance of living life with dignity and courage. the courage to be yourself. the courage to forge your own path. the courage to leave for better things. the courage to stand up for yourself and others. the courage to question what you believe. the courage to do what scares you. and most importantly, the courage to live life. we could all do better with a little more courage.

4 stars
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,463 reviews9,618 followers
June 17, 2017
THIS. FREAKING. BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I loved it sooooooooooooooo much. It broke my freaking heart and gave me joy and broke my heart some more. It's just so wonderful! And the feels in this book are beyond what I can say in my pitiful little review. All I know is if you have been meaning to read this book and have been putting if off, READ IT - you just might find it as wonderful as I did.

The main characters are, Dill, Travis and Lydia and I love them so much! They are some of the most awesome characters I have read in awhile. Dill is the son of the crazy, snake, preacher man. Travis is a fantasy book fanatic whom you can not help but love. He goes around with his dragon necklace and his staff and is constantly reading his favorite author's books. And Lydia is the one that has the money with a father as a dentist and I think her mom was in real estate. Either way, her parents are wonderful people, the boys parents, not so much.

Dill's preacher father ends up in jail for reasons. And Dill's mom doesn't even want Dill to finish his last year of high school or go to college, because of reasons.


Travis has a really sweet mom but a jerk for a father. He's a drunk and he's always calling Travis names etc.

Lydia runs a very popular blog (<---I wish I did) talking about any and everything. She's going to go to college and make something of herself. The boys, not so much, but they finally came up with their own plan. And poor Dill has a crush on Lydia but don't want to tell her. It all eventually comes out when other things happen. And Lydia made me laugh hysterically many times while reading this book! (thank you, Lydia, I needed that)

Dill is also a brilliant singer/songwriter/guitarist.

As much as I loved these characters and this book, there were some parts that just ripped my heart out and threw it on the floor.

I really have nothing else to say about it without giving out spoilers. I had all of this stuff I wanted to say while reading it and I should have written them all down. I would have like to put my many feels in the book, but then again, I would have had to add spoilers and I don't like to do that unless they are mild. There is nothing much mild to this book.

I hope many more people love this book as much as I did and I cried a few times and laughed a few times. The perfect book, okay . . . not so much the crying because I'm tired of crying in books!


Fin ♥

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews100 followers
February 3, 2018
Another great coming of age story!
Warning contents may contain spoilers!
The religious beliefs are part of the background. I didn't get the impression that the author was anti-Christian, nor even especially opposed to snake handling as an expression of faith. There are communities where it is a demonstration of belief. Dill's life is in one. In a lot of ways, it’s the least of his problems. His father is Pastor Early.
It had thoroughly scandalized Forestville, Tennessee when Pastor Early of the Church of Christ’s Disciples with Signs of Belief went to the state penitentiary—and not for the reasons anyone expected. Everyone assumed he’d get in trouble someday for the twenty-seven or so rattlesnakes and copperheads his congregants passed around each Sunday. No one knew with certainty what law they were breaking, but it seemed unlawful somehow. And the Tennessee Department of Wildlife did take custody of the snakes after his arrest. Or people thought perhaps he’d run afoul of the law by inducing his flock to drink diluted battery acid and strychnine; another favored worship activity. But no, he went to Riverbend Prison for a different sort of poison: possession of more than one hundred images depicting a minor engaged in sexual activity.

A lot of the small-town rumor and speculation aimed at Dill. Guilt by association. Some people assume that he lied in court to protect himself. A man of God would never do something so wrong. Dill’s mother would prefer to believe that it was his porn. Both of his parents blame Dill for his father’s imprisonment. A minor would not have been prosecuted. If Dill had claimed the porn, then his father would not be in prison, and they wouldn’t be in debt. His father rationalizes his imprisonment as being part of God’s plan. I’m here because the Lord wanted me to minister to other inmates. Their emotional blackmail on this kid is relentless.
While it’s wrapped in scripture, I just thought that they’re selfish and self-serving. Your child’s best interest should come before your own. Expecting him to lie and perjure himself to protect his father’s sin and crime is not an aspect of Christ mission fulfilled on earth. Ministry to the imprisoned is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy that Christians perform. I understand that the prison is distant, but that’s why church groups organize bus trips for community outreach.
On the bright side, Dill has a couple of friends. Travis’ story broke my heart. And, I liked Lydia and her parents. She’s not completely likable, but a plausible enough character.
Profile Image for emma.
1,824 reviews48.3k followers
December 19, 2019
I love to suffer.

I first read this book as an ARC three years ago, and I remembered nothing about it. Except one thing:

It made me very, very, very sad.

Armed with that knowledge and that knowledge only, I reread it.

I have no excuse other than my penchant for pain.

Once again I read this book, and once again it made me SO SAD.

I don’t necessarily love the characters in this book. They can be kind of annoying (especially one in particular. Okay yes I’M TALKING ABOUT YOU, LYDIA, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE CLASS PRIVILEGE OKAY). It can be kind of dry, very slow, a bit repetitive. It is by no means a perfect book.

But it made me actually FEEL something, and for that it deserves a high rating.

Bottom line: If you see me rereading this again in three years, it’s a cry for help.



review to come / 4 stars


yes, my only memory of this book is that it's super, super sad.

yes, i am rereading it.

leave me to my self-destructive decision making in peace
Profile Image for Warda.
1,152 reviews18.3k followers
October 31, 2018
I feel... overwhelmed and content and broken and hopeful at the same time.
I can’t believe this is Jeff Zentner’s debut novel. I don’t really know how to articulate into words how this story crept up on me without me even realising it and laid itself comfortably within me. These characters and their lives felt real so me and during the course that I was reading this book in, they absolutely became a part of my life and I feel like their stories will linger and it’ll be a source of courage and hope for me, because they have defied their own odds.

I feel sick with this heaviness that is sitting on my heart right now and desperately need a book that’ll make me feel light again, because my insides hurt.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: emotional/physical abuse and suicide.

(Buddy-read with my my lovely lucie!) ❤️
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews723 followers
February 7, 2019
And if you're going to live, you might as well do painful, brave and beautiful things...

Great book, heartbreaker & feelgood... review to follow. First, to work!
....Home from work! But tired...I'm not as young as the main character youngsters in this book :-) I'll tell this: the book was wonderful until about 60%, then I lost a bit of interest, and it picked up again in the end. Four stars! Story of three young friends final year in college, going to university and knowing they will go their different ways.... an extraordinary combination... Dill, son of imprisoned Pastor Dillard Early Sr., in prison because of child porn.... handler of snakes in his church. Dill is a troubled kid due to this weird situation. Lydia, a mind of her own, successful blogger and fashionista, parents who are well off and love her, who give her space to live her life the way she wants it, and Travis, a big guy with passion for fantasy books & games, abused by his drunk father.... Dill, Lydia and Travis are true friends. The story is really beautiful, leading up to a tragic event about midway in the story.
I have to say, after that the story gets a bit mushy, a bit lovey dovey, without giving away too much details. Now that bored me a bit after a while, so the glimmering 4.5>5 stars went back to let's say 3.8 for me. The ending: strong. All in all, an emotional, well written story, grabs you by the heart and yes, ... I cried, lying in my bed reading.... had to stop at one point.
So, I've said it before and will say it again, a book that makes me cry must be a good book (unless it is from sheer frustration of course :-)). 4 stars& recommended. My first 'ponderings' about this book... Special.

Dill's lyrics:
Moonlight. Calm after thunderstorm.
Scarecrows. Dusty bibles. Abandoned houses.
Fireflies. Sunlight through dust. Fallen leaves.
Churchyard cemetery. Gray autumn sky.
River levee. Gravel Road. Wind chimes.
Wood smoke. Train whistle on winter night.
Kudzu on telephone pole. Hymnal falling apart.
White crosses by highway. Cicada hum.
Shadows. Sparrows. Rust. Railroad crossing
lights through fog. Crickets. Dance of leaves
in wind. Decaying barn. Field after harvest.
Clouds covering moon. Quiet dusk. Lightning.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,537 reviews9,791 followers
May 27, 2021
Against a backdrop of rural Tennessee, The Serpent King follows the perspectives of three teens: Dill, Lydia and Travis.

A solid friendship trio, who are easy to get behind!

It's their Senior year of high school and the three of them are struggling to break free of the molds set for them by their parents and other adults.

In addition, they are also exploring who they are as people, independent from their families, and trying to determine what sort of life they would like to lead.

This story is incredibly moving and deals with some heavy topics, but all told from an overwhelmingly sensitive voice.

I was blown away by the quality and style of Jeff Zentner's writing. This book made me feel so much. Yes, me.

It awoke my soul and brought forth every emotion you could possibly imagine. Not only did I laugh out loud but I also cried, real actual tears , just flowing forth like my heart were breaking.

That's good writing.

I would recommend this story to anyone, particularly those looking to defrost their cold hearts. I wasn't sure what to expect going in and was genuinely surprised by how much this book sucked me in.

I want more books that feel like this!

It is important to note that I listened to the audiobook. There were three incredible narrators that melded together into a fantastically seamless production.

I highly recommend the audio!
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,447 reviews7,537 followers
March 10, 2016
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”

A week or so ago I claimed that it would be hard to top Dark Matter as my best read of 2016. Turns out I lied. It wasn’t that hard at all. Once again Shelby (or more specifically, her NetGalley addiction) gets the credit for putting this one on my radar. She’s a horrible old bitty like me and rarely gives out the 5 Stars so when she raved about The Serpent King (well, in all honesty it was when she posted a non giff-i-fied review) I knew I should take her seriously. I think she has emotions a little more often than I do, though, so I was positive my robot heart could make it through The Serpent King unscathed. After all . . . .

Palm Springs commercial photography

But then I met Dill, a boy whose daddy was famous for being a snake-handling/strychnine drinking preacher, but has most recently become famous for activities most of us only see on Dateline. It was impossible not to immediately want to tuck Dill into a special corner of my heart . . .

“No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace. What if you know Jesus but have no peace?”

Dill introduced me to Lydia – a girl who marched to the beat of her own drum and somehow managed to be best friends with Dill although she didn’t quite share his love for the Lord . . .

“Do you think that’s what Jesus really meant? Maybe he was like, ‘and theoretically, you could probably pick up snakes,’ and Mark’s over there writing and he’s like, ‘You should literally pick up snakes. Cool, Jesus, got it!’ And Jesus is going, ‘Well, calm down with the snake business. Don’t be weird; just be a decent person. It’s really more of a metaphor.’ And Mark is writing, ‘Definitely pick up actual literal snakes and drink actual real poison like rotten grape juice or other Bible-y poison.’”

(It probably goes without saying that Lydia was my people.)

Then the two kids introduced me to the final member of their trifecta – a boy named Travis who found what he believed in through a different sort of good book . . .

Palm Springs commercial photography

I can’t remember the last time a book affected me this much or when I read a YA story with multiple narrators who had such distinct voices and personalities. I have placed The Serpent King on the “like-this-or-we-can’t-be-friends” shelf. Normally that title is just for grins, but there’s a good chance if you hate this one I will experience a severe case of the butthurt and not be able to speak to you anymore. (Have no fears, Ron 2.0, you get a pass for not liking anything that I do and all that jazz.) Everyone read this. It feeds my dark side to watch you all cry the ugly tears of a Kardashian, especially if I know you will be like me and look “like your heart stepped on a Lego” once you are finished. As for me, I’ll be uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh busy for awhile . . .

Palm Springs commercial photography

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley!
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 503 books402k followers
August 13, 2017
Heartbreaking, uplifting, genuine and beautiful — those are the first words that come to mind about The Serpent King. The story revolves around three very different friends growing up in Forrestville, Tennessee. (Or Forestville, as our female protagonist insists on calling it, since the town was named after Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, so ‘the extra r stands for racist.’) Lydia has the most functional family in our trio of heroes. Her folks are comfortably well-off. They support and love her. She isn’t popular at school, but she has another life on-line as a high-profile blogger on fashion and pop culture. Because of all this, and because of her strong self-confidence, her opportunities after high school seem limitless. She wants to go to NYU. She has already connected with high-powered fashion industry people there, and she looks forward to getting out of Tennessee for good.

Dill Early, on the other hand, is hopelessly mired in his family’s past. His father, a charismatic preacher who shares Dill’s name, is presently in jail for child porn. People in their small town either think Dill Jr. is a pervert like his father, or they blame him for letting Dill Sr. go to jail, since Dill Jr.’s testimony is what put his dad away. Dill has talent and dreams of being a musician, but his parents would never allow it, and he is expected to start working full time at the grocery store once he graduates high school to help pay the family’s huge debts. Worst of all: Dill is secretly in love with his longtime friend Lydia, who is about to move away forever and leave him stuck in his dismal life. What’s a guy to do?

Travis, the third member of our trio, is a sword-and-sorcery reader who is obsessed with a ‘Game of Thrones’ type series. Travis even carries his own ‘wizarding staff’ around with him wherever he goes. He’s a big guy, and his abusive drunk father wants him to play on the football team, but Travis has no interest in this. He would rather hang out with his two friends, work in the lumber mill, and spend the rest of his time in his worlds of fantasy. But how will the end of high school affect him, especially with Dill and Lydia’s lives changing too?

This book is the story of their senior year, which takes a horrible turn with a life-shattering act of violence. And of course . . . I can’t tell you what that is. You’ll have to read the book! Trust me, though — you will love these characters. You will relate to them no matter where you live. If you’ve ever felt stuck, confused, anxious . . . if you’ve ever struggled with your feelings and your dreams for the future, you can’t help but forge deep connections to Dill, Lydia, and Travis. One last bonus: the dialogue just sparkles. It’s punchy, smart and authentically teen. Or at least, it’s how we wished we might have sounded at our best in high school.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
March 11, 2017
Life is pretty tough for Dill Early. It wasn't always easy growing up as the son of a controversial Pentecostal minister who, along with members of his congregation, handled rattlesnakes and drank poison. But when his father runs afoul of the law and winds up in prison, life gets even harder for Dill. He must deal with the constant bullying of his high school classmates and the suspicion and cruel treatment of former church members and others in his small town of Forrestville, Tennessee.

The future looks bleak for Dill—he cannot even begin to consider college because he has to help his mother survive financially, given the mountain of debt they live with since his father's legal troubles occurred. But fortunately, his two best friends, Lydia and Travis—outcasts in their own right—are there to attempt to cheer him up and support him. Lydia, the creator of a fashion and culture blog, can't wait to get out of Forrestville and start a new life, hopefully as a student at NYU. Travis would rather spend time reading and re-reading his favorite series of fantasy books then focus on his own problems, which he has largely kept a secret from his friends.

As the end of their senior year in high school draws closer and closer, and Lydia gets more excited about leaving their town behind her, Dill gets more and more upset. He feels as if she'll be happy not only to get out of town, but to get rid of him and Travis, and that hurts him more and more, especially as Dill comes to realize just how strong his feelings are for her. Lydia tries to encourage Dill to think beyond the limits he and his mother have put on his future, tries to make him believe that college is an option. But Dill views her attempts to help as wanting to change him. And as events in their lives go from bad to worse, he's afraid to make himself even more vulnerable, and he doesn't want to jeopardize their relationship.

"Because we should do things we're afraid of. It makes it easier every time we do it."

The Serpent King is a beautiful and moving book, at times bleak and at times hopeful. It absolutely captured my heart and my mind. I loved these characters and their interactions with each other. These characters may be somewhat wise beyond their years but they act like real teenagers—you don't marvel at their dialogue at the same time you wonder whether teenagers really talk this way. I was utterly invested in this story from the very first page, and as much as I wanted to read the whole thing so quickly, I was really sad that it was over when I was finished.

This is a book about how we can't let our lives be dictated by our families or our heritage, and we can't let those around us limit our potential. But more than anything, this is a book about friendship and how it frees and changes us, and how we must find the courage to act on our desires and wishes before it's too late.

"And if you're going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things."

Jeff Zentner is such an assured writer; it's amazing to think this is his debut novel. I really loved this, and once again, I marvel at the amazing talent being demonstrated in the YA genre these days, although this isn't a book just for young adults by any means.

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Ɗẳɳ  2.☊.
159 reviews292 followers
August 14, 2019
Some reviews—a pitiful few—seem to write themselves, while others require extensive time to collect my thoughts, or a knock-down-drag-out battle with procrastination. But once in a blue moon, I stumble across a story like this one that’s another animal altogether.

After finishing this book, rather than posting a timely review like a decent little goodreader, I instead teased out an absurd question, “Do I dare slap five stars on a silly little young adult story?” Well . . . now that my emotional scars have had sufficient time to heal, I think I’m finally ready to answer that question. Absolutely! Any book that can put me through the wringer—twist me inside out—and run through the whole gamut of human emotions is well-deserving of all the stars.

The Serpent King is the story of three friends—three social outcast—and their senior year of high school in the sleepy little backwater town of Forrestville, Tennessee. Travis is a Hodor sized Lord of the Rings type uber-nerd, fond of dressing like a wizard and carrying an oaken staff. Lydia is a straight-A student with a popular fashion blog, who’s counting down the days until her real life can begin at NYU. But it’s Dill who’s the heart and soul of the book. A fledgling musician caught between a rock and a hard place—living in two worlds, but a part of neither. On one side is his father’s congregation, and on the other is the rest of the town that looks down their nose at their weird snake-handling faith. As the pastor’s son, it would have been a challenge to fit into high school as it was, but to make matters worse his father’s sent off to prison for peddling in kiddie porn, and it was his Dill’s own testimony that was responsible for putting him away. Reviled by the flock for refusing to take the blame, when his father insisted that the computer photos were Dill’s, and shunned by the community for his faith and family, Dill’s only solace is the love and support of his best friends.

“He squinted to read the sign out of habit. ‘No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace.’ What if you know Jesus but have no peace? Does that mean the sign is wrong, or does that mean you don’t know Jesus quite as well as you think?”

Through an alternating point of view narrative, we soon discover how remarkable those friendships are. And the greater the outside pressure, teasing, and bullying—from both classmates and parents—the stronger their bonds become.

Dill’s resigned to his fate though, completely closed off to the idea of ever escaping this awful place. With his dad in prison and his mom barely scraping by, it’s up to Dill to pick up the slack, so his chance at college and creating a better life for himself is virtually nil. However, with the clock ticking down to the day when Lydia will walk out of his life forever, a tragedy strikes that shakes him to the very foundation of his being . . .

This book was an emotional roller-coaster. It wasn’t the tragedy so much as the fallout that left such a lasting impression on me. “Something broke loose inside Dill’s mind. Something that had been moored against the roaring tumult. It came untethered and crashed around with reckless abandon—burning, shattering, consuming. He stopped seeing color and all became a swirling, howling, leaden gray desolation. But the pain hadn’t arrived. The way the sea recedes before a tsunami, so every part of him receded. And then the pain struck.” Watching as the characters attempt to cope in the aftermath is what separated the story from countless other young adult dramas, in my mind, and elevated the narrative into something truly special.

What’s weird is that I tend to shy away from the young adult section of the library because most stories are riddled with one or more of the following: teen-angst, clichéd narratives, sparkly vampire love triangles, special snowflakes, dystopian savior complexes, or suicide glorification. Honestly, what self-respecting middle-aged man still reads that shit? However, I am a sucker for coming of age tales, and this one managed to snare me in its web rather quickly, with pitch-perfect dialog, numerous discussions of music and mixtapes, and down-to-earth, relatable characters.

In the end, I suppose that’s what it boils down with most stories: much of your love or hate is predetermined by how well you connect with the characters on an emotional level. And this one left me feeling like my “heart had stepped on a Lego.”

That’s the power of a coming of age story when done right. And this terrific tale of love, loss, and friendship receives my highest recommendation. Five stars . . . full stop.
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
858 reviews3,758 followers
October 17, 2016
Edited to add: I've since let my friends spoil me on what happened in the end of this book and it makes me so glad that I DNFed it. I was about 7 pages away from the meat of the plot being introduced. I definitely stand by my original opinion that this book was terribly plotted if I had no clue what the book was about when I quit, over halfway through. The stereotypes and lack of depth present make me feel confident in rating this 1 star. You may find quality here, but I personally didn't.

Additionally, I have seen some disrespectful public behavior toward reviewers by this author and have had an unpleasant interaction with him in the time since I read this book. (I originally said to be wary of posting negative reviews, but don't let any author scare you away from expressing your opinion!)

Original review: (Read in March 2016)
DNF at page 190.

It should maybe be noted that I was born and raised in Nashville and this book being set so close to home probably meant I judged the setting harsher than anyone else would. I know that the author lives here but I felt some local references were done weirdly, and I hated that this book perpetuated negative stereotypes about the South.

I hated the main character Lydia. She treats her friends like crap and constantly talks down to them even internally and when Dill confronts her about feeling hurt she tells him he has to get over it while she should be allowed to carry on her merry way of ignoring them. I understand this may have been to show her growth in the end, but I was so frustrated with her in the present that her character was a large part of why I ultimately DNFed.

I did not know the full book summary before going in and when the crush is revealed (on page 170, btw, way too late in my opinion!) I was actually shocked by it because I hadn't seen any evidence of this attraction AT ALL in the first half of the book. This felt forced. Then Lydia suddenly develops feelings for Dill in return after seeing a video of him playing guitar. Really? That quickly?

I realized I just didn't care if they ended up together or didn't. If they got out of the small town or stayed. If they all remained friends or not. So I stopped reading.

Travis was the saving grace of this book. I loved that guy.
Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews895 followers
November 30, 2018
This was nowhere near as heartbreaking as I expected it to be and Dill was being a major dick 90% of the time. Honestly I will never get why some people think it is okay to act like a total dickhead, just because your life is shitty or because you had a hard past. I dont think that is an excuse for being an asshole.

But this was still very beautiful and moving. I especially enjoyed the writing style and Travis' character. He was so incredibly wholesome.

I'd recommend this to everyone who enjoys contemporary that deals with more serious topics!
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,794 followers
December 25, 2017
Full review posted:

I have no idea how I’m going to convey all the feelings this book gave me into coherent words…do I really have to??

Times are simpler when no one hates you because of your name and it doesn’t occur to you to be ashamed of it.

This book tells the story of our three characters:
1) An internet famous fashion icon who is unapologetically herself
2) A tragic boy shackled in his father’s shadow
3) A burly lumberjack of a boy who is made from marshmallow and sprinkles and deserves everything beautiful and happy

This is not a fun book, this book is more likely to split you in half than to make you smile (though it definitely has its funny moments)

- Our three main characters live in a very…fundamentally religious town that is harsh and unforgiving to those who need it most
- It’s such a great story of friendship and hope and acceptance and it plunges that knife deep, deep down into your being
- Ft. Wholesome friendships
Dill angled one of the vents toward his face. “You ever think about how weird it is that Earth is hurtling through the black vacuum of space, where it’s like a thousand below zero, and meanwhile we’re down here sweating?”

“I often think about how weird it is that Earth is hurtling through the black vacuum of space and meanwhile you’re down here being a total weirdo.”

- Basically all the kids in the book have some sort of form of daddy issues (mainly bc their dads are THE BIGGEST JERKS TO EXIST ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH) and so I have taken it upon myself to adopt them that includes lydia, even tho her parents are pretty cool
- All three characters are the most precious little beans you’ve ever witnessed and after reading 13 words from the book, you’re going to be warming up some hot milk and gathering bubble wrap to encapsulate them in
- There’s no incandescent beauties in this book. And I LOVED that. It’s so real, they’re so real, theyre love for each other is so real, you can genuine feel how lost and broken they are without each other and that’s just…something special man
- Now the writing is fantastic. It is heartfelt and dismal and so so so raw.
- The dynamics of the town, the tightness that the characters feel is expressed so perfectly, idk how this is possible to do
- It’s not all sadness either. Like the characters themselves are really funny (when they aren’t being tragic and smol)
- :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)
- I can’t say anything beyond I cried until I got a headache and then even when the sadness was over and the happiness was sorta there, I cried even more bc wow I’m an emotional wreck thanks @ author
- youre an evil man
- There’s so many parts of this book I cannot even begin to explain all the intricacies it covers but just like, read it if you haven’t already okay.

"I had no idea those books meant that much to you, Travis," Lydia murmured. "Now I feel bad about making all those Bloodfall jokes."
"Does this mean you'll read them?"

4.5 stars!!
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews906 followers
September 24, 2016
A finished copy was provided by the publisher for review.

Told in the point of views of three characters Dill, Travis and Lydia, we have a story that is memorable, deep and tragic. Dill has a reputation trashed by his father. Travis has an obsession with a book series that is similar to "Game of Thrones" and Lydia is the smart sassy fashion blogger who wants nothing but to head out to college and leave the small Tennessee town behind. 

I can't even begin to write this review because I'm all choked up with emotions. I am so glad I'm not the black sheep.. So I have this thing where I don't actually read what the descriptions are about (sometimes) and I did that with this book. I initially thought this would be some sort of rain forest fantasy adventure based on the cover. Granted I didn't see the silhouette of the kids on the bridge until later, so imagine to my surprise when I started reading it was a contemporary! Then I was hooked from the beginning. This rarely happens to me with realistic fiction so I pretty much gobbled it up in two sittings. It's a little about religion, a lot about friendship, family and love. Definitely a coming-of-age story that will keep you glued to its pages. I know I was.

The book contains: some disgusting Un-Christian-like behaviour. I couldn't help but cringe at times. There is swearing and even Homophobic slurs.. You will also have some of the most horrible parents as well as some of the best found in the book. Oh and I have to mention Lydia's present to Travis? Probably every book nerd's dream! I cried out of happiness when that part happened.

I can't sing enough praises. LOVED this book to pieces. Jeff Zentner made these characters so real to me. Made me care about each and every one of them. Cried twice (at two certain parts) and couldn't stop remembering all the emotions I felt while reading this. Highly recommended! One of my favourite and memorable reads of the year! Run and pick up your copy, I really hope you loved it as much as I did!



"You ask for plenty without ever actually asking for it." (3)

"Times are simpler when no one hates you because of your name and it doesn't occur to you to be ashamed of it." (64)

"Folks is afraid of grief. Think it's catching, like a disease." (71)

"You hate yourself for not being as brave as the people you love to read about. And you just want to be somewhere where no one makes you feel that way." (104)

"You don't need options in life. You need Jesus." (142)

"Because we should do things we're afraid of. It makes it easier every time we do it." (191)

"We need to take care of each other from now on. We need to be each other's family because ours are so messed up. We need to make better lives for ourselves. We gotta start doing stuff we're afraid to do." (233)

"I want you to be careful in this world. My heart is wrapped up in you." (270)

"I've made books my life because they let me escape this world of cruelty and savagery." (277)

"You won't be living in a shitty small town anymore, where people try to make themselves feel better by making other people feel smaller." (314)
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
696 reviews1,073 followers
June 29, 2020
Well this was a heart wrencher!!

“We need to take care of each other from now on. We need to be each other’s family because ours are so messed up. We need to make better lives for ourselves. We gotta start doing stuff we’re afraid to do.”

I’d heard great things about this contemporary and I was not disappointed.

Told in 3 perspectives.
We have Dill, a young musician living in the shadow of his terribly “religious” father - imprisoned for a terrible crime.
Travis, who reads an epic fantasy series as an escape from his abusive father.
Finally we have Lydia. I didn’t warm to her immediately, in fact I still found a lot of the things she’d say uncomfortable. Mainly the way she’d speak to her parents. But she was a great support to Dill and she definitely had character development.

These three teens are best friends as they tackle high school senior year and the lead up to college. And when disaster strikes it proves found family can be just if not more important than blood family.

I don’t want to give away too much because of spoilers but I really enjoyed this.

Overall a solid YA with some important messages.
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews671 followers
November 27, 2016
Every school has them, kids that don't readily fit in with everyone else. In The Serpent King, we have three teens in their final year of high school, Travis, Dill, and Lydia, who have become fast friends, drawn together by their otherness. They are the irregular weaves, used to being the butt of jokes and providing target practice for bullies, the proverbial square pegs who are never going to fit into the round holes that house their classmates so well.

Dill's mother is a bible-thumping nightmare. Not only does she blame her son for his father's incarceration in prison, she stubbornly believes Jesus' plan for Dill is for him to drop out of high school so he can work full-time rather than part-time to bring more money into the household. I wanted to tear right through the pages and throttle her more than once. I am not a mother, but common sense would tell a person this is wrong, wrong, and oh, so wrong. She's horrible.

This is YA that doesn't read like YA. Hopelessly out of the loop where teenagers are concerned, I do not know if their dialog is on the money or not, and I do not care. The story was stellar, touching on depression, hope, and a determined thirst for independence. This one may hurt your heart before all is said and done, but it was well worth the read.
Profile Image for Fabian {Councillor}.
231 reviews476 followers
February 8, 2017
When I opened this book, I expected a lot of things, but never would I have thought that it was going to receive a place among my absolute favorite books, with the definite guarantee of rereading this one day (maybe I should mention here that I hardly ever reread a book).

The Serpent King is Jeff Zentner's debut novel, and what a novel it is. He has been a guitarist and songwriter, having released five albums before focusing his attention on writing novels for young adults. But this novel doesn't feel like a debut novel. The writing? Yes, that's something Jeff Zentner can still improve even though it is already pretty good. But the character development in this novel was close to perfection, as much as I hate to use the word "perfect" in any context, because whatever is perfect for you, might just as well be imperfect for others. For me, The Serpent King was perfect.

“So when I watch trains, it makes me think about how much movement there is in the world. How every train has dozens of cars and every car has hundreds of parts, and all those parts and cars work day after day. And then there are all these other motions. People are born and die. Seasons change. Rivers flow to the sea. Earth circles the sun and the moon circles Earth. Everything whirring and spinning toward something. And I get to be part of it for a little while, the way I get to watch a train for a minute or two, and then it's gone.”

This book introduces three young adults coming of age in a gripping tale set in a rural small town in Forrestville, Tennessee. Dillard Early, Jr., a talented musician, is the son of almost fanatically religious parents, his father being a former pastor and now a convicted criminal. His mother blames him for the imprisonment of his father, and sharing the same name with his father and grandfather, both having earned a negative reputation in their town, doesn't improve matters for Dill. Lydia Blankenship feels as if she was born into the wrong hometown; because as much as she loves her parents (and is loved in return), she never felt welcome in Forrestville and rather seeks to discover huge, adventurous metropolises like New York City. Running a famous fashion blog with thousands of followers, Lydia finds comfort in the support of virtual friends. Travis Bohannon is a gentle and caring guy who doesn't exactly have the perfect body weight and who is obsessed with an epic fantasy series called Bloodfall, which Jeff Zentner manages to characterize so well that it almost feels like a series one would like to read too. Travis struggles with finding a place in his family, especially as his abusive father has turned into a notorious drunkard after Travis' older brother's death.

Those three teenagers couldn't be more different from each other, yet they develop a friendship which is closer than one could imagine. Those three different voices alternate with one another in changing POV chapters, always allowing for some refreshing viewpoints to be explored. In this novel, Jeff Zentner very much relies not on usual plot elements, but rather on developing the three major characters and letting them decide how the plot is going to continue. For most parts of the story, the reader gets to spend time with those characters and grow attached to them, yet even when Zentner chooses to revert to plot twists, it feels natural in a way which brings the story forward.

We have a fantasy fanboy, a social media celebrity and a criminal's son caught between tradition and the modern world - a motif which continues to be visible throughout the entire novel. Religion and music are explored in very surprising ways, just as the contrast between small-town life and urban pace plays heavily into the story. And let's not forget one very important aspect: Most Contemporary YA novels try to establish their hero(in)es as conflicted and real, I accept and respect that, but a lot of those characters sound roughly the same. Not so much with Dill, Lydia and Travis. I find myself unable to compare their voices to any other character in any other YA novel I have read so far, which only adds to my personal feeling that Jeff Zentner managed to create an extraordinary novel with extraordinary characters. In the beginning of the novel, Dill, Lydia and Travis were just some random teenagers yet another author attempted to write a story about, but in the end, those three people have turned into good friends. Of course they are fictional characters, but sometimes you just wish those fictional characters could be made of flesh and blood and living in your own hometown.

"What’s funny is that I never set out to write a YA novel. What I really wanted to do was to write for young adults. And it happens that the best way to do that is by writing a YA novel. So that’s what I did. I think that’s such an amazing period of life, where you’re basically as intelligent as an adult, but the world and experience haven’t lost their newness. I remember the immediacy of feeling and wonder that accompanied those years of my life. There’s a magic there. I also love the way that young adults experience art and cling to the pieces of art that they love. I wanted to create something that would (hopefully) be loved and clung to."

- Jeff Zentner, quoted from his FAQ on his author's website.

I would happily give this book ten stars if only Goodreads allowed me to. And finally, I want to thank Shelby for pointing this one out to me in the first place.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,009 reviews1,327 followers
May 11, 2019
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”

🌟 Honest Hamad strikes again and he’s here to tell you that he was never a fan of the synopsis of the story. He only read this because he loved Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner!

🌟 This is Jeff Zentner’s debut and I have heard great things about it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it but after Goodbye days joined my tear worthy books, I needed to read this even more when Fares picked it for me in my 10 bloggers, 10 recommendations challenge.

🌟 The Writing style is usually the first thing that I notice when I start reading a book and though the writing here was good. I had higher expectations because Goodbye days prose was excellent. I guess this can be taken positively that the author improved and I respect him for that!

“Because we should do things we’re afraid of. It makes it easier every time we do it.”

🌟 We have 3 main characters here and we have all of their POVs in the book. Each of them was special in their own way! Dill whose father is unavailable and is from a strictly religious family, Lydia is a famous blogger online but not so famous IRL and I loved this representation. Trevor was my favorite, he is the softest nerd you will meet who is trapped in a huge body!

🌟 I liked the small village dynamics and the reviews I just saw are a living proof that it was realistic and well written. I may have not been a big fan of the romance between Dill and Lydia but it is what it is.

🌟 The book has a kind of a fast pace with shorter chapters which is my favorite mix! I believe Jeff is great when it comes to this formula. I think the book deals with heavy topics and the most prominent was religion which may not be a comfortable subject for some readers!

🌟 Summary: This book was good and enjoyable although it is kind of a heavier read. I think the format of the book makes this feasible. I liked the writing but I know Jeff can do better (I read his other works). I felt like it was a 3.5 stars book for me but I teared at one point (Of course you know it if you read the book) and that always makes me biased and give a better rating. So it is a 4 stars rating from me!
Profile Image for ❄️BooksofRadiance❄️.
603 reviews731 followers
May 7, 2018

This was SUCH an emotionally taxing read!!! ughhhh

I’m so drained and no chapter’d ever made me cry quite like a certain chapter in here.

It was a beautiful poignant read but I did not care for the excessive amount of christian baiting.
Profile Image for Laurie Flynn.
Author 6 books1,076 followers
January 15, 2016
My bordering-on-rabid desire to read this book has been well documented. To the point where every time I saw it praised on social media, I became ever-so-slightly bitter that I hadn’t yet read it. So when I attended the ALA conference last weekend and saw ARCs, I grabbed one right away. I also squealed in a decidedly unprofessional manner (there were witnesses). I started reading on the plane home because I couldn’t wait any longer.

I had heard the writing was powerful, original, masterful. It is.
I had heard that I would fall in love with the characters. I did.
I had heard that my heart would get broken. It did.

Told from three perspectives—Dill, Lydia, and Travis—THE SERPENT KING is the story about three misfit friends who are more like family and their senior year of high school. Jeff Zentner perfectly encapsulates the shaken-up cocktail of emotions that comes with leaving behind what you know. The excitement, the fear, the jealousy, the regret. Dill feels trapped in his life in Forrestville, Tennessee, because of his father’s name and his obligations to support his mother financially. Being in his head is both sad and hopeful at once. Dill is incredibly intelligent and loyal, but keeps getting told he can’t do things, and part of him is suffocating under the guilt his family burdens him with. I wanted so badly for Dill to recognize his full potential. Lydia is the story of a very different upbringing, one with supportive and loving parents. She has a successful fashion blog. Her future is bright and she’s determined to make a new life in New York. Travis lives between the pages of his favorite fantasy series, Bloodfall, tries to avoid his dad’s drunken temper, and thinks he’s intent to stay where he is—until a special encounter awakens faith in himself he never knew he had.

This story is about all kinds of faith. The religious kind, yes, but also the other kind. Faith in your friends. Faith in your own capabilities. Faith in the unknown.

I fell in love with these characters very quickly in the story. I wanted the best for them. This meant the stakes were high for me. I hoped when they hoped. I hurt when they hurt. And when the unexpected happened, I sobbed uncontrollably. That kind of attachment is rare for me with a book—feelings so strong that I had to close the book and actively remind myself that I’m reading fiction because it hurt too much otherwise.

That’s quite unusual for me. I pride myself on being a hard rock to crack as a reader. I rarely cry. But THE SERPENT KING made something burst inside me and opened floodgates I didn’t even know were there. The fact that I cared that much about these characters is a testament to Jeff Zentner’s brilliant skills as an author.

This book is going to mean something different to everyone. To me, it means all-encompassing friendship, the kind that can’t be broken no matter how circumstances change. It means love and loyalty and defiance and breaking comfort zones and crushing through the mold of who you think you are to become the person you want to be. It means bravery. Dill, Lydia, and Travis embody courage for me. They inspire me. Bravery comes in different shapes and sizes. It’s big and small. The bravery these characters display is nothing short of astounding.

THE SERPENT KING is one of the best books I’ve ever read, period. Yes, it broke my heart. But the undercurrent of hope is so strong that you can’t help but feel buoyed by it. Yes, I cried. But they were sad tears and happy tears. And any book that can make you feel not just something but everything, to me, is nothing short of spectacular.
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,030 reviews1,045 followers
July 4, 2018

There is a pervading air of mystery throughout the novel keeping me wide awake and curious from the very start even though at the surface, there seems little going on in the plot. Basically about three friends on their last year of high school and how they are supposed to conquer/submit to (it depends on the three characters’ perspectives) the life that shall follow. While Lydia has it all planned out with her perfect life, Dill and Travis seem resigned with what they already have in their small Southern town even though it’s nothing to be happy about, more like a life to endure.

Deep down though, I knew there was something more to the story than what it’s letting on and I was both right and wrong. Wrong, because what I thought was the “something more” isn’t clearly what the story is about. Right, because the “something more” is already the beautiful story of friendship between Lydia, Dill and Travis. I just resent a bit that I had to have my heart broken first before realizing the beauty of the story.

Mr. Zentner is an excellent storyteller with a knack in writing touching, emotional and unique stories of friendship and discovering oneself. It wasn’t a long time ago when Goodbye Days totally crushed my heart to pieces. Serpent King wasn’t as intense but just as raw and just as heartfelt.

Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,478 reviews19.3k followers
April 23, 2018
Fuck. This book is going to stick with me for a long, long time. I'm currently bouncing back and forth between giving this a 4 or a 5 star review, but for now I think I'm going to give it the full 5 stars. I just. Man. This book was heavy. So, so heavy.
Profile Image for Jenny.
237 reviews346 followers
July 17, 2016
People are born and die. Seasons change. Rivers flow to the sea. Earth circles the sun and the moon circles Earth. Everything whirring and spinning toward something. And I get to be part of it for a little while, the way I get to watch a train for a minute or two, and then it's gone.”

I can't remember the last time a book had left such a strong impression on me. This is, no doubt, one of the best books I've read this year, and I will also go as far as to say that this has become my all time favorite book. Jeff Zentner's debut novel, The Serpent King, deserves all the praises and hype it has been receiving. This story, its writing, is so powerful that from the very first page, it makes you feel like you are there, witnessing everything happening to the main characters, crying and laughing with them, getting your heart broken (if I might add, a lot of times), and then leaving you at the end with a smile on your face.

The Serpent King is a captivating tale of three friends, who are different from each other in every way possible, but still manages to form a strong and beautiful friendship. The story is being told from each character's perspective, and each one of them taking this story forward with their own. It is also connected to characters' past, which I believe is the main focus of the story as it has huge impact on their lives, but I also like how much character driven the story is. There is a lot of character development throughout the book, and that is what I loved the most while reading it.

Dilliard Early comes from a very religious family. His father is in jail, which her mother things that he is responsible for it. He is a grandson of the Serpent King, for which he gets bullied in class and has to endure hateful glares and comments from the people of that town.
Lydia is a very ambitious girl. She is very popular on internet through her fashion blog, and she has always wanted to leave her town to go achieve her dreams.

“How is it every time we're talking about the real world, you manage to bring up fantasy, and every time we're talking about fantasy, you manage to bring up the real world?

Travis shrugged. "My fantasies are more interesting than the real world and machines and tools are more interesting than you guys' fantasies.”

Travis is the most quite person of the group and is always lost in his fantasy books. He is usually quite, mostly because his friends never gets the things he does or the books he read. I had gotten attached to all the characters, but the chapters of Travis, especially with his dad, always made me sad. I just love how brave he is and more than that, I just adore him.

It's incredible how the lives of these three characters intertwines and they end up being such close friends. I always love books on friendships, and even though this book has a lot many more important things in it, I just love it for its simplicity and for focusing enough on their friendship to make me fall in love with each of them.

I love how the book is written. It's engrossing and is a kind of book which you'll just want to keep on reading. And how could I not like it? There there were so many beautiful quotes that I wanted to highlight each one of them. Just read this:
“If you're going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”

“That wouldn't be a bad way to die...giving off light for millions of years after you're gone.”

“We live in a series of moments and seasons and sense memories, strung end to end to form a sort of story.”

I loved this book and would recommend it to everyone. If you like character driven stories, or even if you are looking for a good and memorable story, then this is your book. Just go read this book guys!

Review on my blog- World of A Bibliophile
Profile Image for Syndi.
2,899 reviews634 followers
October 23, 2020
Dillard is a young man who stuck. Stuck inside his mess up family. Stuck with his own guilty feeling. Stuck with his shitty town.

I feel sorry and heartbreak for dillard. I feel his frustration. I feel his feeling toward lydia. His shyness and his guilt toward his mother. His heartbreak over Travis.

This book is telling a story of journey from young man and becoming a man. What a beautiful journey. What a beautiful story.

I especially loves Lydia. I wish I have best friend like her. She rocks. She is smart, talented, independent, brave young woman. She takes no shit from anyone who mess up with Dillard.
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