Before heading into this, I want to thank Kat for convincing me to add this book to my TBR. I’m not going to thank her for the tears falling down my face while I was reading, obviously, in public. I have no idea why I insist on reading books I know are going to break me when there are people around, but that’s a whole other point here. The Serpent King is nothing like you think it’d be. I heard a couple of people thinking it was fantasy before heading into this, and, from the title only, I thought so too. But it’s a contemporary, one that solely relies on friendships, faith, hope, growing up, with a massive punch in the feels.
A SLOW CONTEMPORARY
I read in a blogger’s review, I’m sorry I can’t remember who now, that it’s a “quiet” contemporary, and thought it was the perfect way to describe it. It’s the story of Dill, living with his mom, struggling to make ends meet, with a strong yet dark family history and a dad in prison. It’s also the story of story of Travis, bookish nerd who’d rather stay in the fantasy world he reads about in books than face his violent father. And it’s the story of Lydia, up-and-coming fashion blogger, with two wealthy parents. It’s the story of these three friends, with three different lives intertwining, and about to part and change with college coming up around the corner. For me, that book was slow to start with, and it took me a bit of time to grasp the world, even if it’s a contemporary, and the different characters. I’m guessing this is just me, and probably because I was too into the previous book I read to completely get immersed in the book in the first few chapters.
A DIVERSE SET OF CHARACTERS
Told in alternative chapters, from Lydia, Dill and Travis’s point of view, it wasn’t too hard to recognize all the characters, because they were so different from each other. It’s one thing I loved about this book, how diverse it felt. Every character had a different background, family history, wealth, daily struggles with their parents and relatives…it felt to me like each character was well-built and thought of, which I really enjoyed, and helped me differentiate them right from the beginning. Obviously, I had my preferences and I have to say a massive THANK YOU to the author for making Lydia a fashion blogger. For making her things like “I can’t, I have to work on my blog tonight”. It made her even more relatable to me, ahah, and more endearing. Each character had their own personality, and I grew fond of each one, even if my little preference went to Lydia.
Friendship is obviously the biggest part of the book, even if it stretches, has its struggles, its misunderstanding, its share of tears and, yes, hidden feelings as well. I’m not going to lie and say there isn’t love in this book, but I thought that the biggest part of it all was the friendship between the trio, what bounded them together, these three people coming from different places, somehow fitting together perfectly.
Each relationship with the parents was also different. From wary to understanding, from scared to confidants, I loved how each was unique and well-thought. I’ll never say it enough, but it feels so good to see parents such a huge part of teenagers’ lives in a contemporary story. It’s just so realistic. Also, special mention to Lydia’s parents, and especially her dad. I loved him way too much.
TRAGEDY, BUT HOPE.
Beware before reading, this story is heartbreaking as well. I’m not going to say why and how, because that’ll be spoilers, but I cried. I really did, it hurt. But despite their lives being filled with tragedy, there is also a lot of hope in there as well. The Serpent King is about growing up, about taking control of your own life, making your own choices despite the background you may come from, and despite not knowing what awaits for you next. It’s about following your guts. It’s a bit about having faith, as well. There is a bit of religion in this book, there is talk about God and faith, but it didn’t overshadow the story, nor did it make this a religious book of some kind. It was just the belief of some characters, and it just brought this something more to the story, this something more of realism I enjoyed.
Despite a bit of a slow start, The Serpent King offers a lot of surprises, you may or may not be ready to face. Filled with diversity, hope, heartbreak, faith and tragedy, it’s a delicious mix of it all, a silent book that yet screams out loud that you are here, and you can make something, you can make a move. You’re here, and you’re definining yourself.
Final rating: 4 drops !
Did you read The Serpent King? Did you enjoy it? Do you want to read it?
What was the last book that made you cry? Share your thoughts in comments!
Jeff Zentner, The Serpent King, Published by Crown Books For Young Readers, March 8th 2016.
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.