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Serpent Girl: A Novel

3.30  ·  Rating details ·  140 ratings  ·  28 reviews
“The guys who were supposed to be my crew, my pals, my posse, had left me for dead, after I had gone above and beyond for them, after I had sussed out the perfect score, after I had done my homework, after I had overcome their stupidity, after I had sacrificed my near-virginity by having sex with the limbless lady.”

When he wakes up naked by the side of the high
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Villard (first published 2005)
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Average rating 3.30  · 
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 ·  140 ratings  ·  28 reviews

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Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a quick read... Lot's of white space on the pages. But it was a fun book. Bailey Quinn is a looser burnout petty thief who decides to get his act together by joining the circus. The story begins as Bailey wakes up on the side of the road. He had been dumped there by his double crossing buddies after they ripped off the payroll from the circus. Much of the story is told in flash back mode. We alternate between learning about Bailey's life in the circus and his quest to exact vengeance on ...more
Patrick Boye
Aug 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-2017
If I never read the phrase "copping free" again it will still be too soon. The book is shallow and trite. It lacks depth, character development and direction. It is derivative. On the plus size it is only 194 pages and can be read in two hours.

If you like banal books that seem to be written by a horny 14 year old, this is the book for you.
Mar 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: contemporary, fiction
I read this as research, otherwise I would have stopped about 10 pages in. Mr. Carnahan may have a style that passes as modern, but I thought the writing was amateurish and self-consciously "cool". If you're looking for an insider's view of life working in a carnival, it's a fast read with some good information. Otherwise, I couldn't recommend it.
Autumn Christian
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fun, short little book about a man who stole from the circus, and incurred the wrath of the limbless Serpent Girl.

The good: It's well written and engaging. Has several laugh-out-loud moments and characters that are like literary car-wrecks you can't look away from.

The bad: I do wish that the book expounded more on the relationship between the Serpent Girl and the protagonist, and the ending was a bit of a deus ex machina. Ultimately, I felt the protagonist really didn't change fro
May 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I've been on a circus kick lately, for no apparent reason, but when I saw Serpent Girl at a used book store for $1, I figured it'd be worth picking up. I had no knowledge of the book, and hadn't read reviews, but the write up looked interesting and the praise on the book jacket looked promising. It's written in the voice of a young 20 something man, and although he's easy not to root for, you do end up getting somewhat attached. Carnahan's writing is well detailed, but the timeline was slightly ...more
Lee Ann Johnson
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
Bailey Quinn wakes up by the he side of a road after people he considered to be his friends stole his part of the take from a robbery. The writing, while not sparse, is also not padded in any way h lying to keep up the pace. An excellent read, particularly because it has a completely non-apologetic amorality to I.
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
There are elements of this book that aren't really my cup of tea, but it kept me reading, and the story is well told but easy to follow with just enough depth to make it worthwhile.
Jenni Lathrop
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Okay, sure, it sounds as crass as it is. And the plot is pretty thin (simple revenge plot). And there isn’t anything really redeeming about any of the characters (aside from Sissy). But this book was so much fun!

It’s a quick read, easily slipping from present to past events to even further past events and back again. Bailey really just wants to get some money to go back to college and he plans to get it by stealing from the circus owners who are pretty shady to begin with. It goes wr
May 23, 2016 rated it liked it
so i read this book in middle school and it was one of the first books i read that had sex in it and i still think about that chapter a lot because it introduced that weird intersection of dehumanization and desexualization & it describes him rolling her body around like a tire on a pole or something & i kind of use it as a benchmark for comparison to other sex scenes i witness but also it was really fucked up and i kind of hated the protagonist because what the fuck he burns down the en ...more
Nov 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
Written by screenwriter Matthew Carnahan, this reads much more like a first draft of a script than a fully realized novel. The setup- a former carny robs his old bosses, then is double crossed by his crew and left for dead- is interesting, but the rest of the book is rushed and forced into barely two hundred pages, which leaves no time for important things like characterization or plot. The book feels like a writing exercise combining the movies Freaks and True Romance, sadly removing the creepi ...more
Aug 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-reads
SETTING: American West
WHY: Bailey Quinn is a college dropout and recreational drug user who decides to join the circus to get away from his messed-up life and prepare for returning to school. He and his friends do a lot of "copping free", meaning they steal stuff but don't really harm anyone. He figures out a way to do that with the circus. Part of his plan involves sleeping with the Limbless Lady, Eelie. His partners rip him off and almost k
Feb 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit-fic
I really enjoyed this book! It was different, tautly written, highly entertaining and intelligent, too. Though short for a novel (just under two hundred pages), its pace was consistent and a startling amount of story and character was conveyed to the reader. Were it not for the whole circus aspect, it would make for an excellent film (I think it would be just too offensive on the big screen for most audiences). I really enjoyed this debut novel and will definitely be keeping an eye out for any f ...more
Carly Miller
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: college-for-fun
I devour books about circus freaks and this one was absolutely compelling to me from start to finish. A very easy read with some truly nasty characters.

It's been over a year since I read the book, so I fear this review isn't much to go on. I just remember sitting in stunned silence at the end and barely putting it down throughout. However, I can't remember it fully, so it obviously wasn't a life changer.
Donna Jo Atwood
Nov 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
This book had some good blurbs, but the story is not for me. I had read Geek Love and was fascinated/repelled by the the characters. In Serpent Girl, I was just repelled. If you enjoy books about drugs and sex you might like this, I didn't. Oh, yes, the book do take place in a circus/carnie atmosphere.

Task 10.1 Under the Big Top
Mar 07, 2008 rated it liked it
I picked this up on the behalf of the author's best friend who lived down the beach from me.

The depiction of the life is captivating, even from someone who has lived a parallel existance but in the luxury of tour buses and catered food.

I'm not one to pick up fluffy chic-lit for my weekend at the beach, this is more my speed. An easy enjoyable read.
Jul 30, 2011 rated it liked it
This fast-paced novel mixes high crime and circus freaks and hits puree. Bailey Quinn has finally found a way to get on his feet - by ripping off the carnival freakshow that has hired him. Unfortunately for Bailey, he finds betrayal at every turn - and a vengeful, limbless ex-girlfriend hunting him down.
Shelley Jones
May 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a crazy, fast-paced, bizarre look into the drug hazy life of Bailey, who regains consciousness on the side of the road after having been badly beaten. What follows is Bailey putting together the pieces of the puzzle that landed him there. This was like a Quentin Tarantino film on speed. Its a very quick read that keeps your attention until the end.
Jan 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: comedy, fiction
Quick, fun circus sideshow of a book. Not as full - fledged Geek Love, but I enjoyed it. We're supposed to somehow identify with the main character, Bailey, but I found him too shallow and liaisons both unremarkable and unbelievable, except Serpent Girl herself.

Most freaky is that they got blurbs out of Elmore Leonard, Call Heaven, and Mike Myers for the jacket.
Sep 08, 2013 rated it liked it
A quick read that was strangely compelling. I wanted to know what happened and what was going to happen next with this rag tag group of shallow and self-centered characters. Sure the book could have been fleshed out a bit more for a longer read but it wasn't too shabby as is.
Jul 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Contemporary fiction which introduced a world that I'm not used to...and that's OK. The book kept pulling me forward and I finished it in just a couple of hours. If you enjoy reading about circus freaks, meth tweaks and general skank then you'll like this book. If not stay far, far away.
Apr 19, 2008 rated it liked it
I like this kind of book. You know? Freaky and gritty and maybe a little uncomfortable and startling. I like it when things are said concisely and there's appropriate use of slang. I like my protagonists dirty and morally ambiguous.

I liked it.
Dec 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Quick read. Fast moving story. Not as big a story as Geek Love or Fortune's Bastard, but delivers the repugnance. What can I say? I have a thing for circus, carnival freak-show stories. Look away. I can't look away.
Cory Taylor
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Unexpected and fantastic debauchery
Mar 29, 2007 rated it did not like it
Funniest first sentence ever. It didn't live up to this promise.
Oct 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting characters and plot line. This style book is out of my usual read which made it fun and a quick read.
May 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
One word review...Sucks!
Jan 12, 2013 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this novel. It was a quick and easy read that still managed to enthrall and amuse me with the very vivid picture it paints.
Vincent Hayes
rated it it was amazing
Aug 03, 2014
rated it really liked it
Apr 09, 2012
Matthew Carnahan
rated it it was amazing
Aug 23, 2014
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Matthew McNair Carnahan is an American producer, writer and director.

Carnahan studied at New York University as well as the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre.

He has a daughter with companion Helen Hunt, Måkena lei Gordon Carnahan (born 2004). He also has a son, Emmett.