This wasn’t my typical go-to read, but as you may know, I’m trying to broaden my book horizons. …Plus it came in the March OwlCrate box and I couldn’t just not read it. 😛
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner is a story worth telling. It’s a story about life. Not just life, but living and being brave and taking chances. It’s about the circumstances that people get stuck in, the hands they are dealt – whether by someone else’s doing or something biological – the unfairness of it all, the ability to overcome obstacles, and the importance of a support system. Sometimes even just one person, one promise, can make a difference.
YA/Contemporary = this book centers around students during their final year of high school and deals with some tough and sensitive subject matters, but there are important lessons to be learned.
Anyone who enjoys YA Contemporary. …And who isn’t afraid to cry. (Which is so not me. I probably shouldn’t have read this book. But I’m glad I did. I think…)
The Serpent King revolves around three best friends – Dill, Travis, and Lydia – trying to get through their senior year of high school. Dill, the son of a preacher, must deal with the aftermath of his father’s fall from grace while working to support his mother, pay back his family’s debt, and face down school bullies. Travis, the epic reader and daydreamer, escapes reality and side steps his tumultuous home life by burying himself in fantasy tomes and online forums. And Lydia, the savvy fashion blogger and internet hit, determined to get out of their small town and move on to something bigger and better. To find their paths in life and defeat their demons, they must find strength in each other as well as within themselves.
Small town Forrestville, Tenessee. Zentner does a good job of capturing the living spectrum here. We see the low-income and (relatively) high-income environments and all the aspects branching out from them – family life, physical and mental health and wellbeing, etc.; all of which are pivotal throughout the story. This is also depicted as a pretty religious town, so you see that influence in the book as well.
These characters are incredibly different and terribly endearing. Zentner lays their trials out there for the readers and you can’t help but root for them; especially when it sometimes seems like no one else will.
What I Liked
I loved the writing! It was introspective and, at times, poetic – not surprising since Zentner’s a musician. It was all very well written. And I loved that the story was told through the characters’ alternating perspectives. It enhanced the storytelling and the pacing, both of which were spot on.
What I Liked a Little Less
At this point, I’d like to say that everything in this section stems completely from personal preference. The story was great, the writing was great, and there were lessons to be learned. But…
I have a general reading rule that I’m sure you’ll deem crazy and unrealistic. And you’d be right, but whatever.
Here it is: I try my best to avoid stories that are sad. Not the it’s-sad-for-a-short-period-of-time-and-then-all-is-hunky-dory-and-awesome type of story. I like that type of story. I’m talking about the fundamentally sad type of story. And, in my opinion, this falls into that category. I read to escape reality (which is why I’m drawn to fantasy so much). I don’t really like to read about the nitty-gritty sad parts of life. And this book had a lot of that. Again, don’t get me wrong – there were important lessons to be learned (as there are in life). But, I’m just not sure these stories are for me.
I also wasn’t a fan of the open-endedness of the…ending. But, that’s life and that may or may not have been the point.
Overall, I’d give The Serpent King 4/5 stars. It was well written and thoughtful with good pacing and important life lessons. But I just felt sad for most of the book.