The Serpent King by Jeff Zetner (5 out of 5 Stars)
People live quiet lives and that’s okay. There’s dignity in that, no matter what you may think.
This book is both beautiful and haunting. It was part of the March Writer’s Block Box from OwlCrate. I honestly cannot believe it took me so long to read it. I stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish this since I simply could not stop reading.
It is hard to believe this is a debut novel. The writing is powerful and the characters are so real it hurts. This coming of age story is set in small town Forrestville, Tennessee, population 4,237. It alternates views among three main characters. We have sassmaster Lydia, a blogger and “internet-famous” girl who is set on leaving behind Forrestville after graduation. Travis, the gentle giant with a love of Bloodfall (a high fantasy book series) who wears black and his dragon pendant all day, everyday. Then there is Dill, Dillard Early Jr., the son of a signs preacher who has been in jail for the past 3 years after getting caught with child pornography. An unlikely group of friends bonded in their outcast status.
I, personally have been through a lot this year (I live in Orlando, FL and we have seen some horrendous things this summer), and the timing of this book is perfection. It deals with so many issues, and handles them well. Dill’s struggle with faith and his family’s expectations for him resonate with me so much. I choose to walk a different path than what my parents set for me and the fall out was hard to come to terms with for awhile. I simply adore Travis’s fierce loyalty to his friends and his completely amazing sense of self. He finally learns to not be afraid of who he is and embraces that fully. Lydia’s drive and ambition is beautiful, her love and desire to see her friends happy and have only the best is what I wish for my daughter.
I fell in love with these kids. Their personal struggles with depression, school, family and faith made them all the more tangible. I couldn’t help but hope they escaped Forrestville and the small town oppression. It was amazing to see them learn from each other and celebrate each other’s strengths in a place that offered nothing but people who are there to tear you down. It was a nice change to read about friends who believe in you even when you do not believe in yourself.
This book also broke my heart. I was moved to tears. I never expected to love these characters as I do. It reminds me to be brave in the face of adversity, to have hope and believe in the strength of my friendships, as Lydia would quote “If you do not like the road you’re walking, pave another one.”
Overall a beautiful debut book. This is one of my favourite reads for 2016 and I highly recommend it! I cannot wait to dig into his next novel Goodbye Days, set for release in Spring 2017.