Published by Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House on March 8th 2016
Genres: Young Adult
Source: Book Subscription Box
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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.\r\nHe 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.\r\nTheir 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.\r\n
Every once in awhile, a book comes along that you really connect with. A book that gets into your head, and your heart. I immediately felt this connection with Dill, Travis, and Lydia. Maybe it was because I grew up going to a church that other kids considered “weird”. There was no snake handling, but enough strict rules to set me apart. Maybe it was because I was also a nerdy kid in high school who would rather be reading than going out to parties. Or maybe it was because I left my home behind and went to college in Nashville, and it’s still one of my favorite places. Whatever the reason, I loved these three friends. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner was the selection in the March OwlCrate. I knew as soon as I read the synopsis and the letter that was included from the author that I was going to love this one. His letter could have been written specifically for me, and it was beautiful. It’s always great to feel like the author “gets” you before you even start the book. The story is written from three points of view: Dill, who is dealing with his father being in prison, his mother’s expectations that he will work hard to help the family get out of debt (she even goes so far as to suggest he quit school to work full time!), and knowing that his friends will be moving on without him when they graduate. Lydia, who seems to have it all: great parents, a successful blog, and a bright future. And Travis, who is a lovable nerd who carries a staff and reads fantasy books (I picture Travis looking like Sam from Game of Thrones). But Travis is also dealing with loss and some tough times at home. I can’t pick a favorite – I loved all three for different reasons. The writing was beautiful. He captured that feeling of being a teenager and having friends who are more important to you than anything else in the world. He also captured the loneliness, the wanting more, the uncertainty, and the hope. There were beautiful moments, and moments that absolutely wrecked me. It felt real. I was rooting so hard for all three of these kids to find themselves, to find the courage and happiness that they so deserved. One thing that really struck me were the connections. Not just the three friends’ connections to one another (although those were the most important), but connections to parents, connections between author and reader, connections to where we come from and where we can go.
“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”
I walked away from this book with the following on my mind: Dream big. And then bigger. Acknowledge your fears, and then boldly face them. Don’t allow your circumstances to hold you back, but also don’t forget where you came from. I loved this book, and I think that it’s going to touch a lot of people.
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