I knew within the first few chapters of The Serpent King that I was going to love it. The Serpent King is a novel about three teenagers living in Southern Tennessee who long to escape. Lydia, her college aspirations riding on her quirky (for the South) fashion blog; Dill, the boy who longs to escape the notoriety of his name in a small town; and Travis, the boy who always has his nose in a book to escape the hardships at home. The stress of their own problems on top of the stress of upcoming college brings them together and drives them apart in equal measure. The Serpent King brought me back to those moments when you’re preparing for what’s next in your life during your final year of high school, as you’re eager to escape but also terrified about what it means for the people you’re with now.
Oddly enough, when I first heard about The Serpent King, I didn’t think it was for me. Even with the hype, I didn’t think that I’d like it because of the religious tones. When I received a copy of it in my very first OwlCrate box, it was with equal amounts excitement (Oo, new book! It smells so good!) and trepidation (Ehh, I’ve heard about this, haven’t I? Shoot, is this the one that I didn’t request on NetGalley because of reasons?). I am very happy to admit how wrong I was. The Serpent King pulled me in so quickly that my plan of reading things on my TBR list in order was shot. Everything about the story was what I really want young adult books to be. The setting was extremely vivid. I’m not from the South and I don’t have much experience with it, but Jeff Zenter painted a wonderful picture with his words. It was easy to see the places that the three visited during their last moments in high school.
The writing was superb. Between the setting and the characters, I felt that everything was well rounded and full of depth. I enjoyed each of the characters and the chapters that were written in their point of views; I never had a moment where I was disappointed that there was a switch to a different point of view. I felt that each of the characters were unique in their own way. Some of the situations they went through reminded me of how difficult it is to grow up and how you can feel stuck in high school when you’re ready to move on to the next thing, whether that’s staying in town and working or moving to college.
As with a lot of books there were things that were predictable but not necessarily in a bad way. I was still able to emotionally connect with the story and characters. I ended up reading it in the span of a couple of days because I just could not put it down. The coming of age story within the pages was done really well. It was crafted in a way that foreshadowed future actions but also kept the reader in the present time of the story. There were lots of great lines that I really liked. I’m excited to see what Jeff Zentner comes up with next. I hope the next books he writes have a great setting like this one did.