The Serpent King is a beautiful, brutally honest, sad yet hopeful, story about love, friendship and the hard realities of growing up in the Bible Belt in Southern Tennessee. It’s one of my absolute favorite reads this year. Possibly ever.
The story follows the three outcasts Dill, Lydia and Travis when they handle the hardships of their High School days. Dill’s dad was a Pastor who urged him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes to show his faith but who has been sentenced to jail after a scandal leaving Dill and his mother shunned by the people in town. Travis is a shy, lovely, but odd, boy who always has his nose in a book to shield him off from his abusive father and the hardships at home. Lydia runs a successful fashion blog and has all her focus on going away to college and rise above the narrow-minded and condemning small town.
The friendship between the three of them is so strong and beautiful. I rooted so for all of the characters. Dill who thinks he’s not worthy of Lydia and who is afraid of his past and of making the same mistakes his family has for generations. Lydia who wants so much more in life and just can’t wait to become the real her and break the chains, and of course Travis. I sure can relate to how books can help you escape reality and create a safe haven for you. The story is told from all their POVs, which really added to the perspectives and showed how they were all stressed out and reacted in different way to the fact that life would inevitably change after graduation. For Dill, the idea of losing Lydia scares him more than anything and puts an extra stress on his already misery life:
“The worst days spent with her were better than the best days spent without her.”
I felt so much for them all, it’s been a long time since I felt so protective and invested in any characters. I read the book feverishly, both eager to know and dreading what might happen to them all in the end. This is a book that will stay in my heart forever, it made me root for the characters and their bravery and kindness. And it broke my heart into pieces. Oh how I cried when... certain things (don’t want to spoil anything)... happened. But even though the book has a lot of hardship, struggle, unfairness and sorrow, it is full of hope and love and about daring to stay true to yourself and who you are:
“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave and beautiful things.”
The Serpent King is such a beautiful, powerful and gripping book that I cannot recommend enough!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jeff Zentner