The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

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Today’s review is part of the official blog tour for The Serpent King. Please be sure to keep reading for more about the book, the author, and links to the rest of the blog tour.

An explosive and gut-wrenching novel about growing up and defining oneself, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner has all the makings of a modern classic.

serpent kingDill 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.

He 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.

Their 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.

This book blew me away. It is gorgeously written, with Zentner’s writing transporting the reader to small town Tennessee and into the lives of three teens on the brink of adulthood. Following Dill, Travis, and Lydia as they navigate their senior year of high school, Zentner captures a universal adolescent experience in a truly unique place.

Zentner has done something truly unique these days; he has written a novel that captures the spirit of the best coming-of-age stories that is also wholly unique. His story, setting, and characters feel refreshingly new, while also evoking the same emotions as some of the most loved books in this genre. (Books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Catcher in the Rye.)

I related to these characters. I ached for these characters. I wanted to wrap them in hugs and comfort them, and also tuck them in my pocket to keep them close to me. The Serpent King is the kind of book that you want to keep with you forever.

And luckily, you can. It is in stores now.


Photo credit: J Hernandez
Photo credit: J Hernandez

THE SERPENT KING (On sale March 8, 2016 / $17.99 / Ages 14 & up) by singer-songwriter Jeff Zentner

In this emotional story, the son of a Pentecostal preacher faces his personal demons as he and his two outcast friends try to make it through their senior year of high school in rural Forrestville, Tennessee, without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Drawing from his own roots growing up in the south, Zentner’s debut is haunting, heartbreaking, and hopeful, and is  in the vein of beloved novels The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looking for Alaska, and Eleanor & Park.


One of Paste Magazine’s “10 Most Anticipated YA Books of 2016”

 “Zentner’s prose wraps you up like a warm, Southern hug and packs the punches of a sweaty country brawl…The Serpent King is a debut 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,author of Where Things Come Back, winner of the Michael L. Printz Award and William C. Morris Award

The Serpent King gripped me in its coils and kept me turning pages late into the night. A triumph of love and dignity.”

—Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author

“[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. Zentner explores difficult themes head on—including the desire to escape the sins of the father and the fragility of happiness—while tempering them with the saving grace of enduring friendship.”

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“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.”

School Library Journal

“Characters, incidents, dialogue, the poverty of the rural South, enduring friendship, a desperate clinging to strange faiths, fear of the unknown, and an awareness of the courage it takes to survive, let alone thrive, are among this fine novel’s strengths. Zentner writes with understanding and grace—a new voice to savor.”

Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“A musician himself, Zentner transitions to prose easily in his debut, pulling in complex issues that range from struggles with faith to abuse to grief. Refreshingly, this novel isn’t driven by romance—though it rears its head—but by the importance of pursuing individual passions and forging one’s own path. A promising new voice in YA.”


“A moving debut novel of friendship and forgiveness that will stick with you long after you’ve finished it, I’m calling it now… The Serpent King is already one of my favorite books of 2016.”

— Eric Smith for BookRiot



One thought on “The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

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  1. Just got the book “The Serpent King” on Monday April 14th 2016. I started reading it on Tuesday April 14th 2016. As I started at the very beginning of the book and found myself at awe. I find myself hypnotized as If my eyes were glued to the pages. I’ve went to Chapter 1 all the way to Chapter 15 in a total of 3 or 4 days. I was fixated on the book as if it was the very first book I’ve ever read. So far I learned that,
    Dill’s Father who was a preacher went to prison for having snakes and poison in the church and wants Dill to take over. Dill is a musician of some sort or at least he rights and plays his own songs. Not only that but, Dillard seems to have a bit of a crush on his friend Lydia.
    Travis’s Dad bets him up for what happened to his older son who went to combat war and died. Ever since them Travis didn’t want to be like his brother Matt who his father wanted Travis to be like. But, no Travis is more into being a person who read fantasy stories.
    Lydia, she’s an internet sensation she writes about fashion and life’s everyday happening which occur. Not only that but, she’s a very considerate person to her friends which she want to have their backs and help them with what ever they are going through that they might want to share.

    (April 17th, 2016 I am now just writing about the and I am now on chapter 28 of the book)

    The day when Travis really gets it from his dad was the most powerful chapters that got me angry but, then relief came unto me when Travis stood up to his father and said what he said. But then got kick out of the house. Travis had went to Dill’s house where he knew he would be safe and because he wanted to be with his friend at the time of pain. The good thing about Dill is that he was there for Travis and let him sleep in his room instead of the truck.

    Lydia had just got her acceptance letter from NYU so she went to sneak a little visit to Dill. As Dill had just finished work and as he left Lydia surprised him and took him to Good News Coffee Shop to tell the good news that she got accepted to NYU. Of course Dill showed happiness but not true happiness. As they sat there they wanted to tell Travis the good news so they texted him and he texted them back that he was at work. They wanted to go visit so they texted him and he didn’t answer they called and he didn’t answer. So they went for a drive to go see him as they drove they saw cops and crime scene tape and people taking pictures and then they saw Travis’s truck. They asked where they took Travis and they said county. They drove fast and made it to the hospital. The saddest moment of life just reading this book brought tears to my own eyes. Travis had died and all because of those two men who wanted money to buy drugs and because they saw the staff and thought that Travis was reaching for it. It broke my heart that Travis had died and it broke my heart that Amelia didn’t get to spend time with Travis.
    Later through the book Dill was acting unusual and dark. I started to cry because I didn’t want dill to change it felt as if I were actually losing a friend. Then it comes to the day when he feels like jumping into the river but, remembered the promise he made Lydia. He goes to her house and tells her it happened the darkness came upon him. And not only that but he was ready for college She was so excited she asked her dad to write a recommendation letter and so he did and then they went on to applying colleges. They stayed up all night and as anyone would expect the expected both Dill and Lydia kissed and united. They visited the campus and made it known that they were together. After that prom came they again made it know but made there prom pathetic just the way they wanted it. After that the went to Lydia’s and played in the sprinklers. Back in the story Dill had told his mom he was going to college she wasn’t happy about it but he told her that he wasn’t asking to go he was saying he was going and that she couldn’t stop him. And well he made it know to her that she left and went to her room without a word. After that it came to the point where they were so close to the date when it was time for Dill and Lydia to separate.

    But of course it was getting late about 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning so I stopped and closed the book. I have 4 more chapters to read and I’m so sad I don’t want to stop reading this book. I wish there was a To Be Continued so that there could be another book. But, I could tell that the writer didn’t have much to say so he mad some chapter’s one page long or half a page long. I knew the author didn’t want the book to end either.

    April 18th, 2016 I finished the book dill stands up to his dad and feels good that he did. Lydia left for college and exchanged hugs and kisses. But felt sad. Dill said “I love you.” to Lydia. Lydia’s dad help Dill prepare his stuff fo MTSU. While Dill’s mom was heading out the door for work they had one last conversation and Dill hugged his mom which he hadn’t done for a very long time. His mom left and so he sat there strumming his guitar waiting for Lydia’s dad. Then off he went to college.

    This book is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read it’s a book I want to continue and never end. This book has really caught my attention and helped me with what I was sort of going through. And now I know that I can go to college and become a Writer or a singer or a designer.

    I respect the writer of this book and would love to meet him in person I think if we were to meet we would have a lot in common and a lot to talk about. I love this book and will read it again and again and it will never get old. This book has inspired me and hope inspires others too.

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