The Serpent King (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Growing up anywhere is hard, but the Bible Belt brings its own brand of difficulty. In the South extreme poverty clashes with serious money and opportunity; family tradition and responsibility goes head-to-head with hopes and dreams inspired by technology that gives access to the wider world and ideas that unconnected parents simply cannot grasp. The divide between generations in the South is something that can’t be understood unless you witness it first hand. The Serpent King is a brutally honest story about getting out of your situation, and how hard it really can be. Sometimes all it takes is a fantasy novel or a laptop, but sometimes it can take so much more. Zenter has crafted a beautiful literary piece that gets right to the heart of what it means to be a teen in the south in the 21st century.

— From Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The teens - Dill, Lydia, and Travis - form a bond of friendship in a rural Tennessee town. Each one feels the outcast for different reasons. Dill’s father, a Pentecostal minister, lands in jail for viewing kid porn. Dill is inadvertently blamed for his father’s failings. At the same time, Dill does not take up snake handling or drink poison in the tradition of the Pentecostals. Instead he has a gift for writing music. Eventually Lydia inspires Dill to apply to MSTU in Nashville and to begin a new life, unburdened by his parents’ debts and narrow view of the world. Travis, likewise, is humiliated by his classmates and his father for enjoying fantasy and wizardry. Travis’ older brother Matt died in Afghanistan, and Travis’ alcoholic father cannot accept the loss well and abuses Travis for being weak.

Lydia, on the other hand, comes from a loving, stable family. Dr. Blankenship and his wife, who encourage Lydia’s obsession with fashion and a blog she created to communicate with her followers. Ultimately, Lydia inspires her friends to pursue their dreams. The book contains tragedy, but it also inspires.

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.
We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.
If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one."
--Dolly Parton

— From The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner


Named to ten BEST OF THE YEAR lists and selected as a William C. Morris Award Winner, The Serpent King is the critically acclaimed, much-beloved story of three teens who find themselves--and each other--while on the cusp of graduating from high school with hopes of leaving their small-town behind. Perfect for fans of John Green's Turtles All the Way Down.

"Move over, John Green; Zentner is coming for you." --The New York Public Library

"Will fill the infinite space that was left in your chest after you finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

Dill isn't the most popular kid at his rural Tennessee high school. After his father fell from grace in a public scandal that reverberated throughout their small town, Dill became a target. Fortunately, his two fellow misfits and best friends, Travis and Lydia, have his back.

But as they begin their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. His only escapes are 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.

Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and at times comic view of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one's true self in the wreckage of the past.

"A story about friendship, family and forgiveness, it's as funny and witty as it is utterly heartbreaking."

"A brutally honest portrayal of teen life . . . and] a love letter to the South from a man who really understands it."

"I adored all three of these characters and the way they talked to and loved one another."--New York Times

About the Author

Before becoming a writer, JEFF ZENTNER was a singer-songwriter and guitarist who recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, and Debbie Harry. He lives in Nashville with his wife and son. Committed to making creativity a part of his everyday life, Zentner wrote both his debut novel, The Serpent King, and his follow-up book, Goodbye Days, on his iPhone while taking the bus to and from work. You can follow Zentner on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter at @jeffzentner.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780553524024
ISBN-10: 055352402X
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 8th, 2016
Pages: 384
Language: English