The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Hardcover, 384 pages, Owlcrate subscription
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.
Is this really the only book I finished between May and September? Yikes. I had to take a break from Adrienne Mayor’s The Amazons; not that it isn’t an interesting read, but it’s the sort of nonfiction with several hundred pages of footnotes and cross-references, and it’s hard to rebuild momentum now that I’ve lost the initial push.
But moving on to The Serpent King. I’m having trouble putting it into words. This is a novel about growing up, facing down monumental change, friendship, and feeling trapped by expectations and legacy. It deals with family – the good, the bad, the downright ugly. It deals with jealousy, depression, how life is often shitty and unfair and how people are more often than not the reason for that shittiness and unfairness.