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.
Song For This Book: Fire in My Bones by Jeff Zentner
Why? Dill’s music is fictional (I asked), so the author’s music is the next best thing!
This book has been sitting on my shelf since last spring, and though I’ve been meaning to read it forever, I kept putting it off for one reason or another. But I was between review copies and wanted something in the real world to read, so I picked this one up and finally gave it a go.
I cannot even begin to describe the emotional toll that this book will take on you. It will suck you right in and have you riding that emotional rollercoaster of doom along with all the characters, even though you’ve long since moved your own life past the challenges of those in the book. I rarely cry in real life, and I never cry when I read, and this book brought me to tears. I had to hide in the bathroom so that my partner wouldn’t think I was losing my marbles. Because that is the sort of thing that this book will do to you.
The Good Points of The Serpent King:
I will admit that I was mildly concerned about the talk of religion in the synopsis, but this isn’t one of those books where they’re preaching or trying to convert you or something. It just is, and it’s explained to you, but in relation to how it affects the story. It’s beautifully done, and a great way to handle a subject like religion in a book.
The characters in this book are phenomenal. From the first page, they’re well developed, unique, endearing, and with distinctive voices. They’re perfectly created for a book that relies so heavily on character. Even if you’re the complete opposite of them, you can’t help but love them just a little.
The writing is to die for. Is this what happens when we let songwriter’s take on novels? If so, then this needs to happen more, because this book is beautifully written. It’s heavy on the dialogue, which could easily get repetitive and annoying, but Zentner handles it well and only repeats himself as necessary.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a more emotionally charged book. I don’t know how Zentner squashed all those feelings in there, but somehow he fit them in between the words and punctuation, and they know the exact moment to jump out and punch you right where it hurts.
The Downsides of The Serpent King:
There are some painfully slow moments in this book. And they end up adding to important things that happen later, but you have to drag yourself through them. It’s part of what comes with a character-based book, rather than a plot-based one though, so it’s something you expect going into it.
Some issues in this book were incredibly repetitive, and a couple of times, we got a very similar scene a few times before anything got resolved. And sure, that’s how it goes in real life, but it makes for dull reading.
It made me cry. Not cool.
All in all, I absolutely loved this book, and can’t believe I took so long to actually read it. It’s a beautiful coming of age story, and definitely one that should be getting a lot more praise than it already does. I can’t wait to get my hands on Zentner’s newest book, and see how that one goes.
Find The Serpent King on Book Depository