“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”
Three friends with three very different lives, bound together by love and respect for each other. One with a cursed name and history, one with a destructive present, and one with a glowing future.
Set in a small town outside Nashville named for a big wig in the KKK (“the second ‘r’ in Forrestville is for racist“), the story takes place over the friends’ senior year in high school as they each face a future apart from the others, and try to find their own way.
SO beautifully written.
The Serpent King is told from three POVs, and each voice is distinct in personality and tone. Even at the beginning of the book, even without the name at the head of each chapter, each narrator is unmistakeable.
Dillard Early Jr. lives in a world where he takes on the sins of his father. He lives in fear that his grandfather’s and father’s instability was passed down along with their name; his grandfather’s obsessive grief that led to his suicide and his father’s snakehandling, poison drinking, Pentecostal evangelicalism are two sides of the same coin. Dill fights back the darkness that shadows his everyday life. There is light, but he must choose to follow it. Will he be strong enough, with the burden he already carries, to make that decision?
Travis is an epic nerd. A giant of a boy who dresses all in black, carries a staff, wears a dragon necklace, and can quote pretty much all of the high fantasy series Bloodfall is going to be open for attack in any small town. But Travis, he of the horrible home life and bleak future, he of the gentle nature, knows who he is and takes joy in the moment. Travis has courage. And Travis broke my heart.
With doting, supportive parents, Lydia is privileged, determined, and self-assured. She hides the insecurities she does have with a smart mouth and an incredible work ethic that will see her set her corner of the world on fire. And she has love for and faith in her two best friends, no matter how the rest of the world sees them. She plots her escape from this small-town hell and fights for the same opportunity for her friends.
And Jeff Zentner is a musician who decided to write a book that reads like a love song to growing up.
This is a story about making choices. It is a story about climbing beyond despair and finding hope and peace. It is a story about finding yourself. It is a story about all kinds of faith and all kinds of courage.
This book punched me right in the heart, then turned around and filled it with hope. It is nothing short of spectacular.
The Serpent King was published March 8th, 2016 by Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House.