The Serpent King

The Serpent King

A Novel

eBook - 2016
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The son of a Pentecostal preacher faces his personal demons as he and his two outcast friends try to make it through their senior year of high school in rural Forrestville, Tennessee without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self.
Publisher: New York : Crown, [2016]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780553524048
Characteristics: 1 online resource (372 pages)
Call Number: eBook

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JCLTiffanyR May 28, 2019

Zentner's prose is stunning as he weaves an intricate story about friendship, happiness, and rising above one's circumstances. This novel isn't an easy read because the themes are hard ones, but it a beautiful, elegantly told novel. It's hard to believe this is Zentner's debut, given the depth and power of the storytelling. Many authors toil a lifetime to achieve such skill. Highly recommend.

Jan 20, 2019

This book took me a year to read, because I had some preconceived notion that I wouldn't like it. I don't know why- probably my prejudice against YA contemporary novels (which I need to get over, because between this and Fangirl, the genre has proved powerful for me). Not for the first time, I'm kicking myself for not reading it sooner. This book is painfully honest. The friendship dynamic between Dill, Travis, and Lydia might be the single most realistic one I've ever read.

That alone would get it an A rating in my book, but additionally, it has:
Complex characters
A handling of teen personality and modern issues that doesn't feel like it's coming from an adult, far removed from that world
Intelligent language
Realistic family dynamics and environment, given the location
Full story arcs for more than the primary male MC
A range of parental involvement in the lives of the teen MCs
Believable supporting cast and action
A well-paced plot that pulls you in and doesn't gloss over anything
No easy outs

In short, it's a character-driven, developed, realistic contemporary fiction. It made me weep (fair warning: if this book doesn't hit you in the heartstrings at least once, I'll be very surprised). I highly recommend it, for everyone. Even if you don't like YA, I think you'll like this- the voices are authentically teenaged but the writing is so polished and the issues are so pervasive, it feels more like an adult fiction novel.

ALSO the audiobook is fantastic. The voice actors are so talented (and all three do both male and female voices, Southern accents and not, so I imagine it was a tough gig). All three of them are going on my short Favorite Narrator list.

Oct 26, 2018

Will join the club soon...

Aug 20, 2018

I love this book. The characters are believable and true and will simultaneously make you fall in love and break your heart with their tale.

The Serpent King is a book about Dillard Early, a teenage boy who lives in a small town and is well-known because of his last name, which is shared by his grandfather and father that both have a bad reputation. His friends Lydia and Travis also share the spotlight, as the book switches between their perspectives each chapter. It takes place at the point where the three friends are transitioning into their future after high school, though there are many complications and twists that make it anything but simple. It tells the unique stories of these people and includes many dramatic and surprising events, adding romance near the end of the book. The descriptions are vivid and the scenes are explained well, making me want to keep reading when there is drama or suspense. The characters were very dynamic, and I found some foreshadowing towards one of the main events in the book. I think that this book will appeal to readers that want a deep and dramatic story, and I would highly recommend it as it kept me wanting to read more of it. - Sam


A very character-driven high school drama about a close group of seniors in rural Tennessee going about their daily lives as they reach the end of their high school careers. From the plot synopsis alone, the book seems very dull but as with all character-driven novels the characters and their interactions really carry the novel and provide a means of empathy for most who read it. The story circles around Dill, Lydia and Travis, a close-knit group of friends who happened to meet through different, crappy circumstances, each with their own backstory described in full detail. These inner conflicts are conveyed through the book’s unique use of its ensemble cast, switching points of view from each of the three characters from chapter to chapter while managing to be thoroughly omniscient. Unfortunately, the characters are not all written equal, as throughout the book it feels as if Travis is left out or not given as much attention as our hero and heroine, Dill and Lydia, and as the book proceeds it’s clear why the author made these decisions without going into spoilers but the characters feel real. They experience things teenagers experience like bullying, depression, anxiety, fear and love, and while there is a romance aspect, it is anything but romantic. The book makes use of tropes seen in classic novels such as Of Mice and Men, but for experienced readers the foreshadowing in the book may lessen the emotional effect of the events being foreshadowed. For a teenager in high school unsure about their future or for a young adult wanting to reminisce about their past, this book is a must read due to its ensemble cast having something to empathize with for almost everyone, however for the young audience it may be to difficult to understand the heart-wrenching complicated feelings these teenagers experience.

Jan 21, 2018

I would prefer to get this book, The Serpent King in large print if is available.

Ed Ellis/ South Bend

Dec 28, 2017

Loved this book! Must read for any adult.

Aug 05, 2017

The way the characters progressed through the book, through the ups and downs was was really good. You know you have a great book when you start to feel every emotion each character has. It made me think I lot throughout the book and after, reliving the best moments and just thinking about how each character feels, one of my favourite books ever!

Jul 19, 2017

The Serpent King is authentic. I'm not surprised, therefore, that it created buzz for debut author Jeff Zentner. I'm not sure I've read a story placed in the Bible belt of America before, a story in which religion plays an important role in setting the stage. I am grateful both that Zentner included the signs ministry of main character Dill's father as well as for Zentner's choice not to make the most salacious element of his book central to its plot. I say this even as a Christian, as someone who believes in a certain way that spirituality is central to our lives. In this case, religion would have been overbearing in the story; moreover, it probably would have glorified the signs of faith Dill turns his back on, that is, snake bites and drinking poison. Interestingly, there is consensus in a majority of Christian churches that such signs are not central to faith. Some Bibles even note that the passage (Mark 16:18) in which this ministry is found is not present in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament.

May 06, 2017

Great character development in a coming of age story puts three high school senior misfits together as they look to life beyond high school. Only Lydia has money and knows she’ll go on to college. She just doesn’t fit into the juvenile attitudes of other class members. Dil, is dirt poor. His snake handling preacher dad is in prison for child porn. His mom wants him to drop out of school and get a full time job. Travis is a fantasy loving big guy who lives within his favorite fantasy series, making him the brunt of taunts from other schoolmates. He works in a lumberyard and is physically abused by his alcoholic father. This a story in which the reader will be forced to do a lot of thinking, particularly about how the boys will make it beyond high school. Filled with hope and tremendous sadness, the story culminates in a satisfying way. If you like John Green you’ll like the writing of Jeff Zenter

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