Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

22752127The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Publisher
Publication Date: March 8th, 2016
Publisher: Tundra Books
Point of View: 3rd Person & Alternative
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Friendship, Coming of Age, Family

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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.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending one that will rock his life to the core.


‘‘The Serpent King’’ is absolutely captivating.

It’s sad but it’s also very inspiring. Jeff Zentner wrote a debut novel here worthy of your shelves, time and attention.

It’s original in a way that is realistic. The characters—Dill, Lydia and Travis—have an authentic voice. They are quite different one from the other, yet they are as thick as thieves.

Dill is a musician, struggling daily with the effects of the sins of his father, literally. His father whom is now behind bars.

Travis’s brother died, which changed his father enormously, so much that he became verbally and physically abusive.

And Lydia, well, she has no money problems, no family problems—in fact, she’s got it pretty easy compared to everybody else, but she needs to learn to accept her friends as they are. She isn’t done growing up, either.

It’s a poignant coming-of-age novel that is reminiscent of ‘‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower.’’

Unlike the title and perhaps cover may suggest, and unlike I first thought, there is no magical realism. Everything is very much realistic, unfortunately. No matter where you live—New York, Montréal, Budapest, a random small town no one knows of—you cannot escape life, meaning that bad things happen to everyone, all over the world.

But you can decide whether to get up or stay down.


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8 thoughts on “Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

  1. I have a copy of this book but I always end up setting it aside. I love what you said at the end though. Maybe I should put this at the top of my tbr list. Great review, Lola 🙂


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