The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
While looking for a new independent reading book, I was browsing through the “Morris Award” book site and happened upon the 2017 award winner The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. I had never heard of this book, but it sounded intriguing, and I decided to give it a chance. Boy am I glad I did!
The Serpent King follows three high school seniors that live in Forrestville, Tennessee. Dillard Early Jr., Travis Bohannon, and Lydia Blankenship are your basic outcasts. Because of this, they form an incredible bond of friendship/love.
The story is about the three; their home lives, friendship, loss, and ultimately their future. We learn that Dill is the son of a disgraced Pentecostal snake-handling Pastor whom is currently serving prison time for child pornography. Travis is a gentle-giant of a kid who works at his family’s lumber yard and is obsessed with a fantasy series much like “Game of Thrones”. Unfortunately, Travis’s father is an abusive alcoholic and is not appreciative of Travis’s obsession. Finally there is Lydia, who comes from an upper-middle class family and runs a fashion blog while dreaming about her escape from their small-town after graduation.
The chapters are each told from the point of view of each character. Here we learn that Dill’s grandfather was the one known as “The Serpent King” after he basically went off the deep-end when his daughter was killed. He began slaughtering snakes and wearing their skins only to finally commit suicide by drinking poison; Dill therefore worries that he is destined to follow in his father-grandfather’s footsteps. Travis, deals with his obsession for his series and his abusive father along the way. And Lydia, who tries to keep Dill and Travis thinking about where they should take their futures, (and worrying about leaving the two behind) while trying to learn about herself in the process. Then on a dark night, tragedy happens…
This book was fabulous! I felt that the characters were extremely believable, and it’s a book about having faith in yourself. I think Zentner did a great job at bringing three characters together that a reader can instantly be drawn to. There is mild language in it, but it is really incorporated in the context of the story to help the reader understand what it would be like in certain situations. I think this book would be appropriate for students at least 14 on up.