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The Serpent King Hardcover – March 8, 2016
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A William C. Morris Award Winner
A New York Times Notable Book
An Amazon Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A BuzzFeed Best YA Book of the Year
A Mashable Best YA Book of the Year
A Shelf Awareness Best Teen Book of the Year
A Hudson Booksellers Best Book of the Year
A B&N Best YA Book of the Year
A Southern Living Best Book of the Year
An Indie Next List Top Ten Selection
A Paste Magazine and popcrush.com Most Anticipated YA Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Spring 2016 Flying Start
"A book you won't be able to resist or forget. The Southern boy in me savored every syllable and the reader in me fell in love with every page." –John Corey Whaley, National Book Award finalist and Printz Award winner
"A triumph of love and dignity." –Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author
"Move over, John Green; Zentner is coming for you." –The New York Public Library
"Will fill the infinite space that was left in your chest after you finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower." –BookRiot.com
"A story about friendship, family and forgiveness, it's as funny and witty as it is utterly heartbreaking." –PasteMagazine.com
"A brutally honest portrayal of teen life . . . [and] a love letter to the South from a man who really understands it." –Mashable.com
"I adored all three of these characters and the way they talked to and loved one another." –New York Times Book Review
"A new voice to savor." –Kirkus, Starred
"[T]his sepia-toned portrait of small-town life serves as a moving testament to love, loyalty, faith, and reaching through the darkness to find light and hope." –PW, Starred
"Pens would run dry if readers were to underline extraordinary sentences--the kind that are so true, or funny, or beautiful that they clamp hearts. . . . [An] extraordinary YA debut." –Shelf Awareness, Starred
"The third-person narration manages to convey distinct flavor for each deeply personal and introspective storyline, so each character emerges as an authentic individual, flawed yet lovable, and readers will find themselves drawn by the heartstrings into their complex lives." –The Bulletin, Starred
"Thorough characterization and artful prose allow readers to intimately experience the highs and lows of these three friends .... Recommended for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell." –SLJ
About the Author
Before becoming a writer, JEFF ZENTNER was a singer-songwriter and guitarist who recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, and Debbie Harry. He lives in Nashville with his wife and son. Committed to making creativity a part of his everyday life, Zentner wrote both his debut novel, The Serpent King, and his follow-up book, Goodbye Days, on his iPhone while taking the bus to and from work. You can follow Zentner on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter at @jeffzentner.
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I know "I laughed, I cried" is a cliche, but that's exactly what I did this weekend as I read "The Serpent King." It's one of the most beautifully written books I've read in years. The prose is just gorgeous. You instantly fall in love with the characters. You feel their heartbreaks and their joys, and you'll wish you could step in and save them from themselves and others. I can't recommend the book strongly enough. You'll fall in love with Dill, Lydia and Travis just like we did.
Like THE SERPENT KING's characters, I grew up in the rural South, and I can honestly say that Zentner got it right where so many books get it wrong. He even knows the proper way to use "Bless your heart," which is no small thing. Every page brims with authenticity. I knew people like Dill, like Travis. I knew that overpowering heat.
Zentner's writing makes me want to be a better writer. I highlighted and underlined and made notes in the margins of this book, and even from the first chapter, I realized that I would have THE SERPENT KING at my side going forward; hopefully some of its brilliance will rub off on me.
In a snapshot: it's like if John Corey Whaley and Faulkner had a baby, and that baby was this book. So obviously I loved it, and obviously I'm going to recommend the hell out of it.
Would give this 6 stars if I could.
Dill lives in a small town in an infamous family of religious snake handlers and has a preacher father who was sent to prison. He is ostracized and bullied at his school and at home, he is blamed for his father's imprisonment since Dill would not lie for his father. His only solace is his music and best friends, Travis and Lydia. Travis lives with an abusive dad and as an escape, re-reads his favorite fanasty book series over and over and goes on online forums to talk about this fanasty series with other fans. Lydia is a smart, popular fashion blogger who is extremely unpopular at her high school since she is seen as weird and as thinking or acting like she is better than everyone. In their senior year of high school, everything is bittersweet since they know everything will change after high school-- Lydia is getting out of town and going to college and Dill and Travis are stuck in town due to their poverty and duty to family that Lydia (daughter of a dentist) does not fully see and understand. And Dill is conflicted about telling Lydia he is in love with her and guilty that telling Lydia the truth may guilt her into staying or have Lydia pressuring Dill to leave when he feels he needs to stay to help get his family out of debt due to his father's imprisonment. When tragedy strikes his life, Dill has to deal with his life changing sooner and more unexpectly than he was ready for, forcing him to make decisions that he really does not want to make. Will there ever be a happy ending for a Dill?
I don't know how to express how much I loved this book and why without giving spoilers, which I do not do in my reviews. This book deeply moved me, from the nostalgic feel the author created to the witty characters and their banter that made you love them to the tragedy that befell them and how they handled (or in some cases, didn't handle it). I wish this book was written when I was still in high school because I feel like it healed me in a way, like balm for my soul. I cannot recommend highly enough.
I gave this 5 out of 5 on Goodreads.
Without giving any of the plot away, there was one part in the book where I actually sobbed. You'll know where that part is when you get to it. Get the book. You won't regret it.