Must Read Monday
The selection this month that I read for my “Adults who read YA” book club is an absolute must read!
The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner.
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.
The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core.
Summary source: Goodreads.com
I loved this book and I think it is a must read for several reasons.
• It is very well written. The only thing that qualifies it as YA in my mind is the fact that the characters are in high school. That is not to say that I don’t think YA can be well written; but this book deals with some pretty heavy topics.
• The main and secondary characters are extremely relatable. No matter how you grew up or where, I think that anyone can relate their teen years in some way to the experiences of Lydia, Travis, and Dill. As adults, I found the secondary characters to be, with the exception of Lydia’s parents, to be very grounded in reality.
• I liked the setting. It was a very accurate portrayal of “Smalltown, USA.”
• The “tragedy” of the novel, and its resulting fallout was relevant and timely. So many kids today have to deal with the death of their friends and peers. I don’t want to say too much in order to save the story.
• It ran through the entire spectrum of my emotions. I laughed, cried, got the chills, and held my breath. It is a great experience when one book can give you so many different feelings.
• It had several excellent nuggets of wisdom; for example, “If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”
The Serpent King was full of wisdom, heart, truth, sadness, and inspiration. I loved all three of the main characters. I wanted them to succeed, I wanted to hurt anyone who hurt them, I wanted to comfort them when they cried.
It has been almost a week since I finished reading this book, and I still find myself thinking about Dill, Lydia, and Tyler. That is how I know this was a good one.