Friday, March 11, 2016

Book review - The Serpent King

Title: The Serpent King
Author: Jeff Zentner
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre
                     Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone
good luck keeping your emotions in check

Summary (provided by publisher): 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 opinion: Fantastic. A vivid depiction of teens on the verge of a major life change. These kids are your quintessential outsiders, too odd to fit in with their peers in small-town America. I was prepared to be annoyed with this book. Intentional outsiders can get a little too much play in novels. They tend to be overly strong and defiant. While Lydia fits this description, Travis is more oblivious and Dil is incredibly damaged. Their personality traits become more intense as the novel progresses, almost as if they are desperately trying to hold on to themselves with the prospect of major life change looming. The writing itself is elegant, artistic. Zentner consistently chooses the best possible words, an archaic and artistic vocabulary. Now, this writing style can border on self-importance and arrogance, but the sentences are so well put together that I'm inclined to forgive a handful of unnecessary SAT words. And be prepared. The last quarter of this book nearly had me in tears. Like, full-on sobbing. This is a book from which it can be difficult to disentangle yourself.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

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