The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner is a must read for teens and lovers of young adult literature. Told in alternating perspectives of the three main characters, this book is sure to become a life long favorite to be read and reread.
The three main characters live in Forrestville, Tennessee - a town named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. Dill Early Jr. is a talented song writer. His father is a convicted criminal and his mother blames Dill for his father's imprisonment. Lydia Blankenship is an internet star who runs a famous fashion blog and dreams of leaving Forrestville for New York City. Travis Bohannon is a gentle giant who is obsessed with the fantasy series, Bloodfall, where he escapes regularly. Travis is an odd duck with a sad story of his own.
The Serpent King is Jeff Zentner's debut novel. He has been a guitarist and song writer, and his poetic style comes through in this beautifully written story.
About The Serpent King, Jeff says, "I wanted to write about young people who struggle to lead lives of dignity and find beauty in a forgotten, unglamorous place. Who wonder what becomes of dreams once they cross the county line. This book is my love letter to those young people and anyone who has ever felt like them, no matter how or where they grew up."
My favorite bits from Dill's chapters:
And worse, somewhere, circling and flitting around that dread, was another awful feeling: nothing makes you feel more naked than someone identifying a desire you never knew you possessed.
"I read somewhere that a lot of the stars we see don't exist anymore. They've already died and it's taken millions of years for their light to reach Earth," Dill said.
"That wouldn't be a bad way to die," Lydia said. "Giving off light for millions of years after you're gone."
"I think lives are more than the sum of their parts," Lydia said. "I don't think it's fair to measure them in accomplishments."
"Nothing stops when we're gone," Lydia said. "The seasons don't stop. This river doesn't stop. Vultures will keep flying in circles. The lives of the people we love won't stop. Time keeps unspooling. Stories keep getting written."
And if you are going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.
My favorite bits from Lydia's chapters:
"We should do things we're afraid of. It makes it easier every time we do it."
"I'm tired of many things," Mr. Burson said, fighting for composure. They turned. "I'm tired of watching children perish. I'm tired of watching the world grind up gentle people. I'm tired of out living those I shouldn't be outliving. I've made books my life because they let me escape this world of cruelty and savagery. I needed to say that out loud to somebody other than my cats. Please take care of yourselves, my young friends."
My favorite bit fromTravis's chapters:
"Writing is something you can learn only by doing. To become a writer, you need an imagination, which you clearly have. You need to read books, which you clearly do. And you need to write, which you don't yet do, but should."And even though this comes in a Dill chapter, it belongs to Travis:
Rest, O Knight, proud in victory, proud in death.Let your name evermore be a light to those who loved you.Let white flowers grow upon this place that you rest.Yours was a life well lived, and now you dine in the halls of the Elders at their eternal feast.
And, finally, my favorite bit from the author's website:
"What’s funny is that I never set out to write a YA novel. What I really wanted to do was to write for young adults. And it happens that the best way to do that is by writing a YA novel. So that’s what I did. I think that’s such an amazing period of life, where you’re basically as intelligent as an adult, but the world and experience haven’t lost their newness. I remember the immediacy of feeling and wonder that accompanied those years of my life. There’s a magic there. I also love the way that young adults experience art and cling to the pieces of art that they love. I wanted to create something that would (hopefully) be loved and clung to."
Get this book for every teen you know! They will love and cling to it.