Book Title:
The Serpent King
Book Author:
Jeff Zentner
Publishing Date:
March 8th, 2016
Crown Books for Young Readers
Date Read:
March 14th, 2016


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.

My Review

The Serpent King deserves way more than five stars.  This book is YA perfection – I seriously wish you luck trying to find a more well written YA contemporary than this one, because I really don’t think it’s out there.  Writing this review is going to be difficult, because this book has left me with so many different emotions that it’s going to be difficult to sort through them all.  But here we go!

The Serpent King is told from three perspectives – Dill, Lydia, and Travis.  All three of the characters have so much depth and feel so realistic that during the hours I spent reading this book, it felt like they had been brought right off the page and had become my friends, too.

Dill doesn’t really have that great of a life going for him – his father, a preacher at a church in town, was arrested and is now in jail.  Dill and his mother both end up working in order to pay back their debt – and Dill’s mother insists he goes full time at his grocery store job as soon as he graduates high school.  College is not an option, according to his parents, who believe that Dill must do the rightful thing by God and stay with his family, even if he doesn’t see why he should suffer for his father’s mistakes.

Lydia is an only child, spoiled and loved by her parents, and she dreams of getting out of their backwoods town and on to bigger and better things – such as college in New York.  Having made a name for herself online in the blogging community (she started up a fashion blog and is incredibly popular), she spends her time working on her blog, filling out college applications, and hanging out with Dill and Travis.

Travis loves to read.  His favorite book series is the Bloodfall series, which is full of fantasy – an escape from his troubled home life, where his brother had died while in the army, and his father is abusive toward him and his mother.  Spending days working hard at the lumber yard and with Dill and Lydia, Travis is also building a relationship with another Bloodfall fan, Amelia, and plans to meet her soon.

The three of them are forced to deal with their own problems, and they also have to figure out what is waiting for them after they graduate high school.  Lydia can’t bear the thought of Dill and Travis being left behind when she goes off to college, so she’s always on them about trying to make their own plans.

When tragedy hits and not only tests their friendships, but their faith in themselves, as well, they must figure out what their futures really hold for them, and that maybe the should go after the things they really want before it’s too late.

The Serpent King is full of witty, fun dialogue that really makes the book feel complete.  You know how some authors just don’t seem to get how teenagers talk to each other?  Not the case here.  Lydia is smart-mouthed and fun and isn’t afraid to stick up for herself or what she wants (she’s pretty bad-ass and I love that about her).  Dill is focused on taking care of his family, and for the most part, he is willing to put aside everything he wants to help them out, which is kind of sad, but understandable.  They don’t treat him all that well, though, and it’s nice to see Dill eventually start to get fed up with it.  Travis just wants a nice quiet life where he can work, read, and be happy – and his father doesn’t want him to have that quiet, happy life.  The abuse that Travis suffers is heartbreaking, but his happy, upbeat attitude about everything else made him my favorite character.

The development and growth the three of them go through in this book is phenomenal – it was amazing watching Dill, Lydia, and Travis grow and make choices for themselves.  They essentially discovered who they are and what they want out of life, and Jeff Zentner did this is in such a way that easily made you love all three of them.

I can’t even put into words the amount of emotions I felt while reading this book.  I laughed, I cried (okay, so I did a whole lot of that), and after I was finished, I felt like I came away changed.  The trivial things in life no longer mattered, and I appreciated the amazing family that I have.  The Serpent King is one of those books that I will always have a special place for in my heart, and I will definitely read it again.

If you haven’t picked this one up yet, you really need to read this.  You won’t regret it – the writing is beautiful, the characters are among the best I’ve encountered while reading, and the way the story unfolds is just amazing.

Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

5 stars
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5 Responses to The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

  1. Deanna says:

    I’ve been seeing this book everywhere and hearing AMAZING things about it. I just requested it from the library, so I’m crossing my fingers that I get it soon!
    Loved your review, BTW! 🙂

  2. CW says:

    Great and thorough review, Kelly!
    I’ve heard nothing but positive things about The Serpent King. I think you’re the fifth person I know to have regarded this book so highly? (I think I need to jump on that book hype train.)

    But in all seriousness, this book sounds very introspective and thoughtful, and really character-driven too. I love seeing YA books that explore what it means to grow up and be young, even if it means exploring the really mundane things. This sounds like my kind of book – thanks Kelly!

  3. Pingback: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner | Here's to Happy Endings

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