Abuse · Addresses Issues/Diverse · Contemporary · Favorite Author · YA

The Serpent King by Jeff Zenter


The Serpent King by Jeff Zenter

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.

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.

SOURCE:  ARC via publisher

Character Highlights:

Dill –  I feel for Dill.  I understood his stigma of trying to distance himself from his father and grandfather.  In the south your name is everything.  If you say your last name to this day people will ask you if you know so and so or if you are related to XYZ.  For years I hated to go shopping anywhere with my mother for this reason.  She never met a stranger.  Unfortunately for Dill and for so many of us in the south we carry our family’s deeds with us with our names because no matter how large of a town/city you think you live in it isn’t that big down here.

Lydia –  I’m in love with Lydia.  She is a much cooler version of what I thought I might be.  She fought the south and won and any success story for a kindred spirit makes me happy.

Travis –  With Travis I got his being different.  I don’t think people who live out of the south truly get the mentality of living here.  I’m not saying people outside of the south don’t have a hard time or struggle.  I’m saying the south really is a whole other world and when you love something that isn’t the norm here (something outside of football, hunting, etc) you are essentially an outsider at times no matter your connections here and it is extremely hard to love what you want and feel 100 % comfortable.

Overall Thoughts:

I first heard about SK from a fellow blogger who was raving about it on twitter one day.  After I read the blurb?  I was in 100% even though contemporary is not my forte.  But a blue haired blogger who uses bless you heart the correct way within the first chapter?  Done deal.  I am in.

Not only is Jeff hilarious (online that is, LOL) but he brought to life by far the realist version of the south I have ever seen and I felt a deep connection to all of his characters, locations, just his book as a whole.  The south is rooted in tradition and church (sometimes those terms might be interchangeable) and it isn’t something someone who grows up outside of here will ever truly understand.  Your dad worked for XYZ company?  That’s where you will work.  Heck, in my family both of my parents, my sister, two uncles, and four of my cousins worked for or still do work for the same company.  When I went to work somewhere else I was labeled “working for the enemy” (though not in an ugly manner) that to this day (14 years later) is still part of family discussions.  This is just among family and friends.  Outsiders? GOOD LUCK.

Benevolent condescension.  That’s the term Jeff used in SK how others speak to/treat people from the south and I couldn’t agree more.  While I adore my friends outside of the south I can tell you most of my experience (not all) is exactly this reaction.  People think someone from the south can be talked down to and we don’t understand tone and passive aggressive behavior.  I’ve had this discussion with fellow southerners many times and couldn’t agree more.

The Serpent King definitely gave me a True Detective (season one of course) vibe which to me is a huge compliment.  The love and hate of living in a small town, the bond between friends, the indecision and trying to break the tradition and family legacies forced upon you?  This book was magic.  Please read it, but be prepared to fall in love.

A little Lagniappe:  Just a little song for thought. . .I feel like the perfect song to think of when reading would be God’s Gonna Cut You Down by Johnny Cash.  A+ Jeff!  I cannot wait to read what you write next.


A fan for life.



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