{Bee Reviews} The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Posted February 12, 2016 by Bee in Reviews / 17 Comments

{Bee Reviews} The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King

by Jeff Zentner
Published on March 3rd 2016
by Andersen
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | BookDepository | Goodreads

Also by this author: Goodbye Days

A dark, southern gothic novel about small-town dreams, love and grief.

Dill's father is in jail for an unspeakable crime. Shunned by the neighbours in their small religious Tennessee town, Dill and his mother try to make ends meet.

Dill’s only respite from poverty and prejudice are his two friends: Lydia and Travis. Travis is an oddball, finding sanctuary from his violent father in his obsession with an epic fantasy saga. Lydia is fast-talking and fiercely creative, pinning her hopes on her achingly cool fashion blog. Dill fears his heart will break when she escapes to a better life in New York.

Dill wants to get through his final year of high school in one piece. But there’s a dark secret at the heart of his family, a serpent poisoning his blood, filling him with despair. Dill must confront this legacy of madness and desperation before it tears him apart.

I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

5 Stars

Okay, I need to find words. Good ones that will do this book justice. But right now I can’t do words. They escape me from my grip as I try to let this book sink into my brain. The Serpent King is a quiet book in many ways, but it’s also a very powerful suckerpunch to the heart in all the others.

The Serpent King is about Dill and his two friends Lydia and Travis, who live in the small religious town of Forrestville, Tennessee. Dill’s father is in jail for an unspeakable crime and Dill and his mother are shunned by the people in town and try to make ends meet. Lydia is fiercely creative and has a successful fashion blog which she hopes can be her ticket out of this town, preferably to NYU. Travis finds sanctuary from his violent dad in his favorite fantasy book saga. Dill just wants to get through his senior year, but the dark past of his family never lets him go and he must confront it before it tears him apart.

So yeah. This book. Man. I still have a hard time figuring out what to say. Let’s start with the obvious here, okay? This book, especially Dill’s story, has a pretty big focus on religion and while I usually steer clear of this, I decided to take a chance on this one. For one, I want to read more diversely and this means reading books about people with a different religion than mine. Also, I have seen SO many positive reviews for this book that I needed to check it out. And I strangely didn’t mind. Yes, it’s an important part of Dill’s life and his past, but it was not the only thing this story was about. There was a nice balance to all of it. It wasn’t preachy, is what I’m saying.

“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”
~ eARC, p221

Okay, now that that’s over with, let’s continue with the rest. Because there are quite a few things I need to say about this book. Though I might end up rambling, sorry in advance. The writing is gorgeous. The conversations alone were so real and amazing but next to that the narrative was also perfect. There were 3 POV’s, all of them had such a distinct voice. I wanted to read more about each of these three characters because I was hooked into their lives from the start. This is one of those oddly engaging reads that just grips you and doesn’t let you go. It sneaks up on you and then you start reading and before you know it, it has set its claws in your brain and your heart. That’s how good this writing was. And for a debut novel to do that, I applaud you Jeff Zentner.

“I read somewhere that a lot of stars we see don’t exist anymore. They’ve already died and it’s taken millions of years for their light to reach Earth,” Dill said.
“That wouldn’t be a bad way to die,” Lydia said. “Giving off light for millions of years after you’re gone.”
~ eARC p80

Of course, this would all fall apart for me if I didn’t like the characters. Because for me, characters can make or break a book. I don’t care if the story is cliche or predictable, as long as the characters are great and I love them, I’m all in. And the characters in this book were fantastic. I didn’t completely relate to any of them, but I do understand how they feel. I know how it feels to want to escape reality by reading a book like Travis. I think we all do. I also know how it feels to want more out of life, to chase your seemingly impossible dream, like Lydia. I know how it feels when people expect certain things of you and you want more but you can’t bring yourself to hope for more because it would disappoint those people. I know how it feels to be scared of your past and your family’s past and making the same mistakes they did. Like Dill. And that’s the key to any good story. To have characters you can relate to even when they’re so different from who you are.

β€œShe’s it. She’s my everything. She’s the standard by which I’ll judge beauty for the rest of my life. I’ll measure every touch to her breath on my skin. Every voice to her voice. Every mind to her mind. My measure of perfection. The name carved into me. If I could, I would lie with her under these stars until my heart burst.”
~ eARC p.236

This book took my heart and broke it and then healed it again. I laughed, I cried, I sighed, I laughed once more and then cried again. I even swooned a bit with that pitch-perfect slow-burning romance that never once took center stage when it wasn’t needed. All of these relationship were so strong, not just the romance. The friendships were amazing, the relationship between Lydia’s parents and any of the three main characters were also so very good! This book has some serious relationship goals. I didn’t like Travis’s dad or Dill’s parents but I don’t think I’m supposed to. Not really. Because parents should never stand in the way of their child’s dreams. You set the bar for YA Contemporary this year, Mr. Zentner, because this book of yours just hit my all-time-favorites shelf.

The Serpent King is a book you should all have on your list for 2016 releases to buy because it needs to be read by all of you. It’s quiet but so very powerful, emotional and engaging. Keep tissues at hand, though. Seriously.


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17 responses to “{Bee Reviews} The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

  1. Bee, can I just say how gorgeous and filled with such passion your reviews is – I love it!! I would not normally read something contemporary like this, but I so love what you have said that I’m very curious. Thank you for the lovely review and introducing me to a new author.

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend πŸ™‚

  2. OMGGG I’M SO SO EXCITED AND HAPPY RIGHT NOW. *tackle hugs you* I really can’t wait to read it and I loooove this review. Like I’m usually cautious around religion books too? I hate being preached at. But I’m not even worried about this one because you love it so much. NOT EVEN WORRIED. :’) Also those characters sound intensely amazing, SQUEAK. <33

  3. Beautiful review Bee! This book sounds amazing!! I love the quotes you chose and family and friendships being an important part of a story is a favorite of mine! Definitely adding this to my TBR!!

  4. OH THIS SOUNDS INCREDIBLE. I somehow didn’t realise it was a contemproary (well I mean, that title doesn’t sound particularly contemporary-ish). And I’m not such a big fan of religion in books either, but if it’s not preachy then I probably wouldn’t mind.

  5. I had never heard of this book until now, but it sounds pretty promising. I’m gonna try and look into some more reviews, probably on Goodreads, before I do add it to my TBR. Religion is a tricky subject in a lot of books and I know a lot of people skirt around it. So I’m glad to hear this one isn’t preachy in the slightest!

    Olivia Roach recently posted: Twelve Days In December (Review & Giveaway!)

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