Monday, March 14, 2016

Blog Tour: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Today on WinterHaven Books I am participating in the blog tour for The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. In addition to information about the book and the author, I will be sharing my review of this INCREDIBLE young adult novel that completely managed to take my breath away!

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Publisher: Crown Books For Young Readers/Random House
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
Purchase: Amazon / B&N
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.

He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.

Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

My thoughts:


Sorry for the caps lock yelling, but seriously guys, this book is so damn beautiful that I just want to yell it form the rooftops. With The Serpent King Jeff Zentner has created something timeless, something that has the capability to make you both laugh and cry, something that every single human being walking on this earth can relate with somehow. It is a story about friendships, families, first love, prejudices, horrible losses and brilliant futures. It's a story about growing up and finding yourself through fighting the expectations everyone has for you. It is about cherishing the past and where you have come from and the capability to leave the past behind to become something new, to become YOU, the person you're meant to be.

The Serpent King centers around a group of friends - Dill, Lydia and Travis - who live in a small town in Tennessee named after Nathan Bedfort Forrest, one of the forefathers of Ku Klux Klan. Like the namesake of the town, also many of its inhabitants have questionable reputations, like Dill's grandfather and now-imprisoned father. The narrative kicks off from the beginning of the trio's senior year. While Lydia is looking forward to escaping Forrestville and finally fully beginning her life in a big city, both Dill and Travis know that escape might not be that easy for them. Travis, the target of his father's constant bullying and disappointment, has a job on a family lumberyard for the rest of his life, while Dill, who is continually blamed for his father's imprisonment by his parents feels like there is no way he can get rid of the Early family reputation. He thinks it is only inevitable that he will also hear the call of the rattlesnakes and follow the legacy of his elders.

The dynamics of the relationship between Dill, Travis and Lydia are extremely well established, and I loved the fact that Zentner gives them all their own voice and allows the reader to see things from their point of view. Dill thinks there is nothing grand waiting for him after high school graduation. He expects to continue his job backing groceries and handing in his paychecks to her mother so she can shorter the big loans his family is riddled with. He expects more awkward visits to the prison to see his father who seems more and more like the stranger every time he seems him. And he expects loneliness, an empty life after the departure of Lydia. Travis's home life isn't good either, but at least he has his fantasy books as an escape. When his father is violent, either verbally or physically, Travis knows that in his fantasy world, he has a chance to be someone else, someone who is brave and respected, someone who wouldn't let his father continually abuse him. Both Dill and Travis know Lydia is going to be something big - with her popular blog and her personal style, Lydia is ready for New York City where she feels like her creativity can finally flow without the constraints of her small, back-woods home town. But things don't always go as planned and Dill, Travis and Lydia have to experience that first hand.

While I was excited about this book after reading the synopsis, I must admit I never expected something as beautiful as it actually was. Zentner's prose allows the reader to dive into Forrestville and while there were points I wish I could have come up and take a breath, I couldn't do it. The way I started to feel for this characters is something I haven't experienced in a while and I actually found myself from bed at 3 am sobbing uncontrollably for these characters and what they had to go through. Don't get me wrong though, there were also tears of happiness in the mix. What Zentner has come up with feels so real and honest and what these characters go through feels so much like real life. There are ups and downs, mistakes and successes, happiness and uncontrollable sadness. It is really the mixture of all of those feeling that makes this book so worthwhile, because like the characters, the reader goes through an emotional process - I promise you that you will feel different about yourself and about your surroundings after you finish this one. As cliche as it might sound, this book really did change my life and had an effect on how I look at certain things.

As I get older and continue reading young adult literature, I become much more conscious of the way parents and other parental figures are written. Sometimes they are not present at all, or don't have a considerable role. Sometimes they are there, but still don't get much attention. And unfortunately, sometimes they are written in a way that feels very one dimensional - there's either the nagging mother of the "my-mother-is-my-best-friend" character; the absent father of the over-protective father. As I kept reading The Serpent King one of my favorite things about it became the way Zentner writes about relationships between teenagers and adults. There are the problematic, sometimes violent relationships between fathers and sons. There are constantly changing, sometimes aloof, sometimes caring relationships between mothers and sons. And then there are the ideal, loving, nurturing relationships between married parents and a child. But in addition to this, there were relationships between a teenager and an adult that broke family barriers, relationships that were build on mutual trust and understanding. I have been fortunate enough to have a mother who has always been there for me, but ever since my father died when I was 12, there has been different male figures in my life that have all contributed something - my mother's husband who after my somewhat angsty teenage years has become my ally and a friend; the father of one of my closest's friends who has always silently expressed that he's there for me if I need help; the husband of a cousin who was always up for a weekend of video games, pizza and movies. This book really made me think of all those people who have had a role in my life, especially during my teenage years, and made me hope that if there ever is a change for me to help someone young, someone who might not have it so good at home, I hope that I am given a change to do that.

It is books like The Serpent King that make me realize what a privilege and honor it is to read the written word. I have been a reader since childhood and have loved books even before I knew how to read, but once in a while, it is nice to get a reminder of why reading is such a great hobby, or actually, more than a hobby - it's a choice and a way of life. There is no doubt in my mind that you will fall in love with this book if you just give it a chance. Just have a big packet of tissues near by and prepare yourself for something absolutely beautiful.

5 snowflakes


"The Serpent King" gripped me in its coils and kept me turning pages late into the night. A triumph of love and dignity."
- Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author

"[T]this sepia-toned portrait of small-town life serves as a moving testament to love, loyalty, faith, and reaching through the darkness to find light and hope. Zentner explores difficult themes head on - including the desire to escape the sins of the father than the fragility of happiness - while tempering them with the saving grace of enduring friendship."
- Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Characters, incidents, dialogue, the poverty of the rural South, enduring friendship, a desperate clinging to strange faiths, fear of the unknown, and an awareness of the courage it takes to survive, let alone thrive, are among this fine novel's strengths. Zentner writer with understanding and grace - a new voice to savor."
- Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

About The Author:

Jeff Zentner lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He came to writing through music, starting his creative life as a guitarist and eventually becoming a songwriter. He’s released five albums and appeared on recordings with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, and Lydia Lunch, among others.

Now he writes novels for young adults. He became interested in writing for young adults after volunteering at the Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp. As a kid, his parents would take him to the library and drop him off, where he would read until closing time. He worked at various bookstores through high school and college.

He speaks fluent Portuguese, having lived in the Amazon region of Brazil for two years.

Tour Schedule:

Monday, February 22: Jenuine Cupcakes, Kickoff Blog Tour Post
Tuesday, February 23: Book Hounds, Review
Wednesday, February 24: Mundie Moms, Review
Thursday, February 25: Curling Up With a Good Book, Review
Friday, February 26: To Read or Not to Read, Annotate a Scene Guest Post
Monday, February 29: Bookish Lifestyle, Review
Tuesday, March 1: The Book Swarm, Review
Wednesday, March 2: Katie's Book Blog, Playlist Post
Friday, March 4: Who R U, Behind the Scenes Book Secret Guest Post
Monday, March 7: Icey Books, Review
Tuesday, March 8: Stories & Sweeties, Author Interview
Wednesday, March 9: LovingDemBooks, Review
Thursday, March 10: Swoony Boys Podcast, Review
Friday, March 11: Good Books and Good Wine, Review
Monday, March 14: WinterHaven Books, Review
Tuesday, March 15: Me, My Shelf and I, Review
Wednesday, March 16: Novel Novice, Review
Thursday, March 17: Lili's Reflections, Review
Friday, March 18: A Reader of Fictions, Author "Don't Miss" in Nashville Guest Post

1 comment:

  1. Great review Milka! I've been wanting to read this book for a while now, and hopefully I will get to it soon! So excited :)
    June @ Sunshine Reviews