Summary and book reviews of The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King

by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2016, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2017, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Bradley Sides

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About this Book

Book Summary

A touching debut chronicles the coming-of-age of three high school seniors, misfits and best friends in a sepia-toned portrait of small-town life.

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life - at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father's extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.

Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

1
Dill

There were things Dillard Wayne Early Jr. dreaded more than the start of school at Forrestville High. Not many, but a few. Thinking about the future was one of them. Dill didn't enjoy doing that. He didn't much care for talking about religion with his mother. That never left him feeling happy or saved. He loathed the flash of recognition that usually passed across people's faces when they learned his name. That rarely resulted in a conversation he enjoyed.

And he really didn't enjoy visiting his father, Pastor Dil-lard Early Sr., at Riverbend Prison. His trip to Nashville that day wasn't to visit his father, but he still had a nagging sense of unformed dread and he didn't know why. It might have been because school was starting the next day, but this felt different somehow than in years past.

It would have been worse except for the excitement of seeing Lydia. The worst days spent with her were better than the best days spent without her.

...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Serpent King is a mesmerizing piece of fiction – one full of heartbreak and wonderment. It shows us that life, even one full of struggle, is still worth living. As Dill’s story comes to a close and he reflects on all he’s overcome, he admits, “I’ll miss this.” When I finished the last page, I felt the same way. What a ride Zentner takes us on. What a glorious, beautiful ride.   (Reviewed by Bradley Sides).

Full Review (912 words).

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Media Reviews

BookRiot

Zentner combines the melancholy of being 17 with the melancholy present in the best of Southern fiction and gives us a novel that will fill the infinite space that was left in your chest after you finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

School Library Journal

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.

Booklist

A musician himself, Zentner transitions to prose easily in his debut, pulling in complex issues that range from struggles with faith to abuse to grief . . . A promising new voice in YA.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Zentner explores difficult themes head on—including the desire to escape the sins of the father and the fragility of happiness—while tempering them with the saving grace of enduring friendship

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Zentner writes with understanding and grace - a new voice to savor. Ages 14 & up.

Author Blurb John Corey Whaley, National Book Award finalist and Printz Award winner
The Serpent King is 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.

Author Blurb Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author
The Serpent King gripped me in its coils and kept me turning pages late into the night. A triumph of love and dignity.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

A Snapshot of Snake Handlers

In the opening pages of Jeff Zentner's The Serpent King, we come to know about Dill Early's family history of snake-handling. His father is an infamous snake-handling pastor at the Church of Christ's Disciples with Signs of Belief. Dill's great grandfather was also a preacher with a shared tenacity for using snakes in his church's worship services. Dill's own mother condemns her son for not wanting to take up the tradition. For this Beyond the Book, I set out to explore the history of snake-handling and to learn more about the taboo practice still used today in certain churches.

Snake Handling at Pentecostal Church of GodUncovering the exact date that snake handling began in American churches is difficult to pinpoint; however, according to ...

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