[626]: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Tundra Books | March 8th, 2016
Hardcover | 384 pp.
Young Adult | Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This book caught me unawares. The cover led me to believe that there was going to be a man who somehow has the power to control all types of snakes or someone with an ability to turn into a snake for whatever reason, but I was way off.In truth, this book made me cry; like full on, shoulder-shaking, snot-dripping cry. I was not prepared for it at all.

The Serpent King is a book about growing up in a place that doesn’t really offer much hope for the future. And in this town is a trio of friends who has their own struggles, misgivings and misfortunes. It is a coming of age story that Β teaches us the fragility of life; the friendships that give us courage, people’s different ideologies and faith, and the importance of familial love – Β blood kinship or otherwise.

Jeff Zentner perfectly captured the ambiance of a Southern town entrenched in fanatic religious beliefs. A town that qualifies the worship of God and snakes, and where drinking venom equates to ordination should you survive. But don’t be alarmed, this book is not heavy on the scriptures if you’re allergic. I think Mr. Zenter was very effective in conveying the religious thematics in moderation. It is every bit your stereotypical Southern community. Some are small-minded and judgemental who held Dill’s father’s sins against him. He was a pastor who got caught with kiddie porn and who tried to get Dill to cover for him by asking him to lie under oath. And when he didn’t, his mother also held him somewhat responsible for his dad’s imprisonment.

Dill feels trapped by his responsibilities and guilt. He thinks the only future he has is working at the grocery store and helping out pay his father’s legal fees forever. But Lydia will do everything in her power to convince him otherwise. Lydia’s upbringing couldn’t be more different than Dill’s or their friend, Travis. She grew up in a progressive household who gave her everything she needed – and not just the material things but love, support and liberties. In the meantime, Travis used to live a loving environment until his older brother got killed while serving the country. After that, he’s taken the brunt of his father’s anger at the world.

The Serpent King is a welcome surprise in a short line of recent contemporary underdogs. It has a lot of heart that will appeal even to those withΒ cynical discernable taste.

  • Wow Joy! I love it when a book surprises you like this. I just read one that had me sobbing too. Fabulous review!

  • Adriana C

    This is my second recommendation of this book and I plan to buy it soon.
    thanks for your review.

  • Jazmen

    I keep hearing how amazing this book is. I want to try it out.

    • You should! Though I’m not sure if it’s going to pull you out of your reading miseries as of late. Lol.

  • You liked this one a little bit more than I did. I liked it okay, but after all the hype I think I was always waiting for something…more? Glad you really liked this one πŸ™‚

    • I did, I did. πŸ™‚ Oh that’s too bad. Honestly, I didn’t hear too much hype about this book. But that’s probably because I’m usually oblivious. Lol.

  • Ooh, I haven’t heard of this one before now but wow, it sounds like an amazing read. I’m a sucker for an emotional read and this one seems like it has a lot of depth!

  • I know it’s YA but younger or older YA? It sounds like from your crying that someone dies. I just don’t think I would be up for that. The older I get, the more I just want to be entertained. I don’t mind violence in a book or the death of the bad guys, but hate when a main character dies. Glad you liked it enough to give it 4 stars! Great review!

    • I’d say a little older. They’re graduating. Ha. Got it in one. πŸ˜‰

  • That definitely sounds better than a book about snakes. I’d get all creeped out reading about snakes for an entire book!


    • hahahah! That’s what I thought after reading. πŸ™‚

  • Oh I donno… this sounds good… surprisingly so, but I really hate to cry and so that is making me leery. At the same time those books should not be missed. *sigh* Brilly review!

    • Same here. But I’m glad I didn’t let that stop me. Mind you, I didn’t really read too many reviews before I picked it up.

  • I’ve seen mentions of this book in the blogosphere, but didn’t pay much attention because, y’know, that title. Delighted to know its not entirely about snakes – your review synopsis sounds incredibly intriguing. Added to my TBR!

    • Lol. Right? I’m not entirely excited about it either at first, but I’m glad I gave it a chance.

  • I want to read this book so much! I am such a sadist or masochist or whatever it is where I enjoy giving myself pain. Books that make me cry are the best!

    • Ha! I’m the exact opposite. I tend to shy away from angst ridden books, but this one came at me without warning. *sobs*

  • I haven’t heard much about this one, but it sounds interesting. I always like it when a book surprises me. I probably would have dismissed this one if it wasn’t for your review, Joy.

    • I wasn’t all that enthused about it when I first saw it around, but I’m really glad I gave it a chance.

  • Latisha Zahrah

    this is a very new thing for me. idk if its my kind of book. i should prove it myself soon!

    • Good luck! I hope you’ll enjoy. πŸ™‚

  • It sounds incredibly powerful!

  • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I absolutely LOVE an underdog contemporary novel, especially one that makes you feel ALL the emotions. I had dismissed this one as well on the basis of its title and cover but I definitely need to re-think this and add it to my TBR. This is exactly the type of book I’m looking for right now so hopefully I can find a copy of it soon! Wonderful review, Joy–thanks for putting this on my radar!

    • Moreover, it doesn’t have your typical contemporary cover so the surprise makes it all the more amazing. πŸ™‚

  • Damn. Well, okay then, this baby is going on the wishlist.

    • Oh I know you’re a bit wary of YAs nowadays, but I really liked this one. I hope you will, too. πŸ™‚

  • This book sounds like it was impactful and hard hitting, and the religious aspect sounds really interesting! Lovely review Joy!

  • I’m really glad that you loved this Joy! And I totally thought the plot would be more fantasy based, but you know what? I’m glad it wasn’t. This was such a perfect read, and I CRIED TOO.

    • I don’t know how anyone could keep a dry eye, to be honest. I mean, the fruitlessness of it all just killed me. A boy trying to turn himself around and then. Gah.

  • I can totally see where you were misguided by the title! But I am so glad you were wonderfully surprised by it πŸ™‚

    • It’s so weird how far away from fantasy this book was. But yeah, wonderful, heartbreaking surprise.

  • Jasprit

    I do love it when a book takes you completely by surprise Joy. I’ve been seeing this book everywhere as of late, but you know me I’ve been completely been overlooking all the books as of late, but I just need a book that will whack me with all the emotions, so think this will be the perfect sort of read. Thank you for convincing me to give this one a go!

    • Oh I know what you mean. There are just way too many books to keep up with. And at times, it feels like I’m squandering the opportunity to read other books. I hope you’ll give this a chance soon!

  • Gosh, so glad you ended up loving this book Joy πŸ˜€ I have heard some great things about it. You are making me curious. Ahhh. And it made you cry? Damn. I am so curious πŸ˜€ Thank you for sharing your lovely thoughts about this one sweetie. <3 I hope you have had the best weekend πŸ™‚

    • I think you will like this one, Carina. I hope you’ll give it a chance. πŸ™‚

  • I have seen a lot of people reading this lately and loving it. I don’t think I have heard a negative review at all. I also definitely understand what it means to misunderstand a book based off of something! I don’t know why… but I do that WAY too often. But this one sounds so emotional and like it really tears at your heart. I’m so curious to try it myself…

    • You’ll also enjoy how refreshing Lydia is. It’s not like she tries so hard to be different from her peers, but she was just raised that way. I hope you’ll love this one.

  • Oh no! A crying book, those can be tough

    • It’s such a fantastic book, though. I hope you’ll give it a chance. πŸ™‚

  • Wow, I definitely want to read this! It’s been on and off my TBR, but you convinced me to give it a shot. The title is pretty deceiving, though!! No serpent king?? bouu

    • Yes, the title is very deceiving. And some characters may have their own annoying moments so be patient with them.

  • Melliane

    it’s great to find a story where you can be surprised like that

    • Yep. Doesn’t happen very often but it’s great when it does.

  • I’m so glad you enjoyed this! I’ve heard so much about it, so I really want to read it. The setting doesn’t sound like my usual read, but I think I will still enjoy it because the idea about the people who worship snakes sounds very interesting! I’ll have to make sure to not read it in public though, because it sounds very emotional! I’m not a big crier in books, so we’ll have to see if it will actually make me cry as much as you did!

    Denise | The Bibliolater β™₯

    • Those southern American towns are a hit and miss for me sometimes. But I really did enjoy this one, though.

  • RO

    Wow! This sounds like a phenomenal read that I need to grab quickly! Awesome review. Hugs…RO

  • Yay good to hear that it was emotional and a welcome surprise

  • I had heard of this book, but never really paid any attention to what it was about. I had no idea it was about the people who worshiped with venomous snakes. I’ve seen some stuff about those people, but don’t know much about them. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

    • It’s an odd religion. It’s very fanatic.

  • Hmmm…I had no idea this was the kind of book to cry over. Based on the cover and title, I thought it was something else entirely. I do want to read this one. The story sounds great but I am a little fearful of the crying πŸ™‚ I am glad that you liked it. Great review!

    Carole @ Carole’s Random Life

    • It surprised me, too. Totally unprepared for the emotional upheaval.

  • ahhh, I also thought it was some fantasy or scifi novel with magic and stuff.. only found out about the story when I actually took the time to read a review and I was completely stand corrected. lol. I’m definitely going to read this one of these days.

    • This was really good, czai. It was unassuming, but intense in some ways.

  • I have been seeing this book everywhere lately, but haven’t had the desire to even try it. The hype scares me a little. But your review is so great – makes me want to consider it. Isn’t my normal cup of tea, but I’m always wanting to read outside my comfort zone.

    • Ah. I don’t know if this will be the kind of thing you will like, Brandie. Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen you review a YA book. πŸ™‚

      • You’re right! I have enjoyed YA in the past, but lately I’ve had no desire for it and haven’t read any in a long time. There’s a new YA book coming out this week by a favorite author of mine. It’s her YA debut – Tell Me Three Things. I want to read it, but YA isn’t calling to me these days.

        • Oh i’ve seen that book around. It makes me want to read it too. I feel the same way some days. Right now, I’m not feeling any of the books I’ve got. Sigh.

  • ChristinaBookAddict

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. I have had my eye on it for awhile. Thanks for the heads up that it made you cry….it does sound like a powerful read! Great review!

    • Oh yes. I hope you’ll like it, Christina. It’s really great.

  • The title made me think it was going to be about controlling snakes also hah I guess we should never judge a book by its cover (or title!)

  • shootingstarsmag

    I need this book!! I wish I had still been subscribing to Owl Crate. Sigh. This sounds like the most perfect book for me though!


    • I hope you’ll get the chance to read it, Lauren. πŸ™‚