The Serpent King

The Serpent King

Book - 2016
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Dillard Early, Jr., Travis Bohannon and Lydia Blankenship are three friends from different walks of life who have one thing in common: none of them seem to fit the mold in rural Tennessee's Forrestville High. Dill has always been branded as an outsider due to his family heritage as snake handlers and poison drinkers, an essential part of their Pentecostal faith. But after his father is sent to prison for sexual abuse of a young parishioner, Dill and his mother become real pariahs. His only two friends are Travis, a gentle giant who works at his family's lumberyard and is obsessed with a Game of Thrones-like fantasy series (much to his alcoholic father's chagrin); and Lydia, who runs a popular fashion blog that's part Tavi Gevinson and part Angela Chase, and is actively plotting her escape from Redneckville, Tennessee. As the three friends begin their senior year, it becomes clear that they won't all be getting to start a promising new life after graduation. How they deal with their diverging paths could cause the end of their friendship. Until a shattering act of random violence forces Dill to wrestle with his dark legacy and find a way into the light of a future worth living.
Publisher: Toronto : Tundra Books, ©2016
ISBN: 9781770498839
Branch Call Number: ZENTNER
Characteristics: 372 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

SurreyLibraries_Teens May 14, 2018

The Serpent King is a book about Dillard Early, a teenage boy who lives in a small town and is well-known because of his last name, which is shared by his grandfather and father that both have a bad reputation. His friends Lydia and Travis also share the spotlight, as the book switches between th... Read More »

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Oct 26, 2018

Will join the club soon...

Aug 20, 2018

I love this book. The characters are believable and true and will simultaneously make you fall in love and break your heart with their tale.

The Serpent King is a book about Dillard Early, a teenage boy who lives in a small town and is well-known because of his last name, which is shared by his grandfather and father that both have a bad reputation. His friends Lydia and Travis also share the spotlight, as the book switches between their perspectives each chapter. It takes place at the point where the three friends are transitioning into their future after high school, though there are many complications and twists that make it anything but simple. It tells the unique stories of these people and includes many dramatic and surprising events, adding romance near the end of the book. The descriptions are vivid and the scenes are explained well, making me want to keep reading when there is drama or suspense. The characters were very dynamic, and I found some foreshadowing towards one of the main events in the book. I think that this book will appeal to readers that want a deep and dramatic story, and I would highly recommend it as it kept me wanting to read more of it. - Sam


A very character-driven high school drama about a close group of seniors in rural Tennessee going about their daily lives as they reach the end of their high school careers. From the plot synopsis alone, the book seems very dull but as with all character-driven novels the characters and their interactions really carry the novel and provide a means of empathy for most who read it. The story circles around Dill, Lydia and Travis, a close-knit group of friends who happened to meet through different, crappy circumstances, each with their own backstory described in full detail. These inner conflicts are conveyed through the book’s unique use of its ensemble cast, switching points of view from each of the three characters from chapter to chapter while managing to be thoroughly omniscient. Unfortunately, the characters are not all written equal, as throughout the book it feels as if Travis is left out or not given as much attention as our hero and heroine, Dill and Lydia, and as the book proceeds it’s clear why the author made these decisions without going into spoilers but the characters feel real. They experience things teenagers experience like bullying, depression, anxiety, fear and love, and while there is a romance aspect, it is anything but romantic. The book makes use of tropes seen in classic novels such as Of Mice and Men, but for experienced readers the foreshadowing in the book may lessen the emotional effect of the events being foreshadowed. For a teenager in high school unsure about their future or for a young adult wanting to reminisce about their past, this book is a must read due to its ensemble cast having something to empathize with for almost everyone, however for the young audience it may be to difficult to understand the heart-wrenching complicated feelings these teenagers experience.

Jan 21, 2018

I would prefer to get this book, The Serpent King in large print if is available.

Ed Ellis/ South Bend

Dec 28, 2017

Loved this book! Must read for any adult.

Aug 05, 2017

The way the characters progressed through the book, through the ups and downs was was really good. You know you have a great book when you start to feel every emotion each character has. It made me think I lot throughout the book and after, reliving the best moments and just thinking about how each character feels, one of my favourite books ever!

Jul 19, 2017

The Serpent King is authentic. I'm not surprised, therefore, that it created buzz for debut author Jeff Zentner. I'm not sure I've read a story placed in the Bible belt of America before, a story in which religion plays an important role in setting the stage. I am grateful both that Zentner included the signs ministry of main character Dill's father as well as for Zentner's choice not to make the most salacious element of his book central to its plot. I say this even as a Christian, as someone who believes in a certain way that spirituality is central to our lives. In this case, religion would have been overbearing in the story; moreover, it probably would have glorified the signs of faith Dill turns his back on, that is, snake bites and drinking poison. Interestingly, there is consensus in a majority of Christian churches that such signs are not central to faith. Some Bibles even note that the passage (Mark 16:18) in which this ministry is found is not present in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament.

May 06, 2017

Great character development in a coming of age story puts three high school senior misfits together as they look to life beyond high school. Only Lydia has money and knows she’ll go on to college. She just doesn’t fit into the juvenile attitudes of other class members. Dil, is dirt poor. His snake handling preacher dad is in prison for child porn. His mom wants him to drop out of school and get a full time job. Travis is a fantasy loving big guy who lives within his favorite fantasy series, making him the brunt of taunts from other schoolmates. He works in a lumberyard and is physically abused by his alcoholic father. This a story in which the reader will be forced to do a lot of thinking, particularly about how the boys will make it beyond high school. Filled with hope and tremendous sadness, the story culminates in a satisfying way. If you like John Green you’ll like the writing of Jeff Zenter

Jan 16, 2017

The Serpent King follows the story of Dill, Travis, and Lydia, three friends in their last year of high school in a rural Tennessee town. It is a poignant and at times very heartbreaking story about what it means to be remembered and the importance of creating your own destiny. This book deals with some very heavy topics, but ultimately leaves you with a sense of hope.

If super (super super) sad but ultimately uplifting realistic YA is your bag, you may just fall in love with The Serpent King. Jeff Zentner (who, unrelated to the book, is a hysterical human and a person you should follow on Twitter if that's your thing) has created a fully realized, living, breathing place in Forrestville. As someone who grew up in rural North Carolina, parts of this book made me physically anxious because they rang so true. The trio of protagonists grow and develop over the story in a masterfully subtle and wonderful way. Also there's a section towards the end that's about 50 pages long during which I cackled nonstop. I don't want to spoil it, but you'll know and it's genius. My biggest critique of this book, though, is in its secondary characters. You know pretty quickly that Dill and Travis have terrible parents. But, like, they have REALLY TERRIBLE parents. Comically terrible parents. I understand how it fits into the overall narrative structure, but had those characters been a bit more subtly drawn and developed, I think the story would have only become more resonant and complex. Either way, I recommend this book, and Jeff Zentner is definitely an author to watch.

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