THE SERPENT KING -- a funny and utterly heartbreaking story about friendship, family and forgiveness
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (2016, Crown Books For Young Readers; 384 pages)
This book is a touching coming-of-age story of three high school seniors, misfits and best friends. Written with a powerful and elegant voice by Jeff Zentner, the reader will automatically get involved in the stories of Dill, Travis and Lydia. None of them feel at home in Forrestville, a small Tennessee town named after the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. Dill has had to wrestle with vipers all his life. He is the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes. He also faces down bullies at school who target him for his father's extreme faith and very public fall from grace. Lydia is the lucky one, the girl with loving, supportive and prosperous parents who have given her the tools to create a popular blog about fashion and the opportunity of a college life in New York City. Travis, the third protagonist, deals with a difficult situation at home, with a drunk father who beats him up, and his own heartbreak over his brother's death. He escapes from his reality with the help of a fictional fantasy world and the sweetness of his mother.
The book is written in third-person chapters that alternate among the three characters, and the author is able to cover the whole of their senior year, the desire to follow their dreams, the fear to do so, the courage to survive their own realities, the complexity of wanting to go and to stay.
The novel has many strengths: great characters, extraordinary dialogue, and the description of the rural South are among them. The story, with its heartbreak and hopeful conclusion, are also strengths, as are the many opportunities that the novel offers to speak up about faith, fears of the unknown, and the courage it takes to survive.
Excellent choice for those who are voracious searchers of real voices in young adult literature. You won't be able to put the book down until you finish it.
Find this title in our catalog: The Serpent King
Recommended by: Maite