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The Serpent King Hardcover – March 8, 2016 by Jeff Zentner (Author)

I feel like I need to mention something before I delve into my thoughts on this book. I am not a religious person. I won’t go into just how much I do or don’t believe, but I truly despise anyone or anything preaching to me about God, Jesus, etc. So, yes, I was worried about The Serpent King quite a bit. However, I was worried for almost no reason at all. While there are religious themes present, they aren’t projected at the reader in a preachy way. If anything, it shows the struggle some have with blind faith especially on the heels of a life-altering event. This story is a remarkable portrayal and truth of small town life and how it can shape, make, or break its community. It is told from three different points of view, a trio of friends: Dill, Lydia, and Travis. Each of their lives are different from the other two; some are sadder and more desolate as well. These three are outcasts in their town and at school, but they try to rise above. Dill’s preacher father is in prison for a crime that stunned me and he’s most likely going to be stuck post-graduation, paying "family" debts. Lydia is a popular fashion blogger looking to get out of her oppressive town. Travis prefers a life of fantasy novels to his real one. Apart, it probably seems as though their friendship shouldn’t work. Together, nothing else makes sense; they are right. . .. If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things. I’m not going to lie. It took me up until about 10 – 15% before I really got sucked into the story. But mainly I think that was my issue. I was so worried about the possibility of this book preaching to me that I forgot to just sit back and read. Once I ignored that piece of my brain, I became invested in the lives of these teens. Dill was the one I felt the most for. I hated how he was treated for his father’s transgressions. I hated how people looked at him as though he would follow in his footsteps. Or maybe even lied to save his own a*s. It’s scary how small-minded people can be, and scarier still how a mob mentality can affect another human being. I knew he deserved more, but it was obvious this tortured boy didn’t feel the same way. Not for a long time. And there was a seed of darkness in him that was only awaiting its chance to thrive. Lydia is a brilliantly written female. I loved her wit, humor, sarcasm, and mentality. I loved that she defended her friends’ honor while giving zero f**** about her own. But don’t think she was perfect. There were several instances throughout the book when I almost wanted to throttle her. Of course she wanted out of her small town life. And she absolutely deserved it and have every right to want it. It was just tough to watch someone else struggle with the reality of losing her and how she handled THAT really grated on me at times. It’s completely unfair of me, but I just needed her to open her eyes and see what she was missing. Not to mention her complete disregard for the feelings of her friends and their lack of presence on her blog. ..Travis. This gentle giant is possibly even sadder than Dill. He may play it off by focusing on his fantasy novels, but it was clear he was dealing with far more than he let on to his friends. Once we get a picture of the disturbing home life he has, the heart breaks and you want him, too, to get a better life. But he doesn’t have the aspirations of the other two. He’s content to live a good life in town, working for his father. He deserves more, but feels it’s unattainable. This story is magnificently written. Jeff Zentner truly has a gift with words. I grew quite attached to these kids and wanted to see all three succeed and live their lives how they wished. There are many times I figured this wasn’t possible. As things progress, your heart begins to feel lighter. Everyone is making changes. They have plans that may not be perfect, but work well enough to ensure some happiness. And just when you get used to the idea of it all, you’re blindsided by another horrific catastrophe. One that I kind of saw coming, but not in the way that it did. I actually had several scenarios chosen in my head, but the truth of it hit me in the heart. The unfairness of it all. And the parents! Aaaahhhhhh! With the exception of Lydia’s parents and Travis’s mother, I hated them. Especially Dill’s. His parents are the complete opposite of every other parental unit in any story. Ever. I couldn’t imagine encouraging your child to drop out of high school and ask them to take a full-time job that won’t pay well to pay your debts. Then there was their extreme religious view — it’s both scary and fanatical. As adults, they were too busy claiming to be victims and guilting their son into a life he didn’t want to see the dark path he was headed down. And his mother was too busy to care enough to help him. As for Travis’s dad. .. Well, he was just a Grade-A jerk. He was stuck mourning his dead son and bashing the surviving one. It’s absolutely no excuse for his behavior, though. My heart stopped each time he was presented on the page. I highly recommend The Serpent King for everyone. It’s a humbling look into the lives of those who struggle to just live. An honest look at the unglamorous lives of people who want to get out, but don’t always have the means. It’s a hopeful story of the possibility of dreams coming to fruition. 4. 5 stars Check it out!

Review A William C. Morris Award WinnerA New York Times Notable BookAn Amazon Best Book of the YearA Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the YearA Publishers Weekly Best Book of the YearA BuzzFeed Best YA Book of the YearA Mashable Best YA Book of the YearA Shelf Awareness Best Teen Book of the YearA Hudson Booksellers Best Book of the YearA B&N Best YA Book of the YearA Southern Living Best Book of the YearAn Indie Next List Top Ten SelectionA Paste Magazine and Most Anticipated YA Book of the YearA Publishers Weekly Spring 2016 Flying Start”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.” –John Corey Whaley, National Book Award finalist and Printz Award winner”A triumph of love and dignity.” –Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author”Move over, John Green; Zentner is coming for you.” –The New York Public Library”Will fill the infinite space that was left in your chest after you finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” –  ”A story about friendship, family and forgiveness, it’s as funny and witty as it is utterly heartbreaking.” –”A brutally honest portrayal of teen life . . . [and] a love letter to the South from a man who really understands it.” –”I adored all three of these characters and the way they talked to and loved one another.” –New York Times Book Review”A new voice to savor.” –Kirkus, Starred”[T]his sepia-toned portrait of small-town life serves as a moving testament to love, loyalty, faith, and reaching through the darkness to find light and hope.” –PW, Starred”Pens would run dry if readers were to underline extraordinary sentences–the kind that are so true, or funny, or beautiful that they clamp hearts. . . . [An] extraordinary YA debut.” –Shelf Awareness, Starred”The third-person narration manages to convey distinct flavor for each deeply personal and introspective storyline, so each character emerges as an authentic individual, flawed yet lovable, and readers will find themselves drawn by the heartstrings into their complex lives.” –The Bulletin, Starred”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.” –SLJ

The Serpent King Hardcover – March 8, 2016 by Jeff Zentner (Author) Review

*Originally reviews on Goodreads and My Blog*THIS. FREAKING. BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I loved it sooooooooooooooo much. It broke my freaking heart and gave me joy and broke my heart some more. It’s just so wonderful! And the feels in this book are beyond what I can say in my pitiful little review. All I know is if you have been meaning to read this book and have been putting if off, READ IT – you just might find it as wonderful as I did. The main characters are, Dill, Travis and Lydia and I love them so much! They are some of the most awesome characters I have read in awhile. Dill is the son of the crazy, snake, preacher man. Travis is a fantasy book fanatic whom you can not help but love. He goes around in with his dragon necklace and his staff and is constantly reading his favorite author’s books. And Lydia is the one that has the money with a father as a dentist and I think her mom was in real estate. Either way, her parents are wonderful people, the boys parents, not so much. Dill’s preacher father ends up in jail for reasons. And Dill’s mom doesn’t even want Dill to finish his last year of high school or go to college, because of reasons. :Travis has a really sweet mom but a jerk for a father. He’s a drunk and he’s always calling Travis names etc. Lydia runs a very popular blog (<—I wish I did) talking about any and everything. She’s going to go to college and make something of herself. The boys, not so much, but they finally came up with their own plan. And poor Dill has a crush on Lydia but don’t want to tell her. It all eventually comes out when other things happen. And Lydia made me laugh hysterically many times while reading this book! (thank you, Lydia, I needed that)Dill is also a brilliant singer/songwriter/guitarist. As much as I loved these characters and this book, there were some parts that just ripped my heart out and threw it on the floor. I really have nothing else to say about it without giving out spoilers. I had all of this stuff I wanted to say while reading it and I should have written them all down. I would have like to put my many feels in the book, but then again, I would have had to add spoilers and I don’t like to do that unless they are mild. There is nothing much mild to this book. I hope many more people love this book as much as I did and I cried a few times and laughed a few times. The perfect book, okay . . . not so much the crying because I’m tired of crying in books!Fin -Read Reviews-

Three unlikely friends in a small town in Tennessee face senior year, and their uncertain futures. Dill’s father is a Pentecostal preacher, known for charming snakes and drinking poison to prove his worthiness to God, but is currently in prison for possessing child porn. Dill plans to remain at home to care for his mother and pay down their enormous family debt. Lydia’s home life consists of stable parents, both emotionally and financially. Even though she writes a fashion blog and has many followers, she is unpopular with her peers. She has big plans for her future, starting with college in NYC. Travis has an abusive father and a quiet, sweet mother. His brother died while serving as a Marine making him feel like he will never live up to his memory, he loves losing himself in fantasy books to escape reality, and he plans to remain in the small town working at his father’s sawmill. This was a beautiful coming of age story, and reading it felt like stepping back into my high school years. Years filled with learning how to separate my thoughts and beliefs from those of my parents, falling in love, and feeling ready to go to college and get on with life. This was a story about helping others, following your dreams, and finding out that you can be anything you want to be . .. (cue the music) with a little help from your friends. Enjoyed the humor and emotion in this book and would highly recommend it.

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