Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

genre:  young adult contemporary fiction

Growing up in a tiny Tennessee town, there is no way to keep big secrets, not really.  It's no secret that Dill's father, a pentecostal preacher, made choices that affected both his community and Dill's family. It's no secret that Lydia is an up and coming internet sensation with a blog that is just quirky enough to be her ticket out of town.  It's no secret that Travis, son of lumber mill worker, would rather live inside a fantasy novel than in real life.  But there are little secrets, the ones that sometimes you're even afraid to admit to yourself - those secrets can change you in ways both destructive and electrifying.  For these three, at the beginning of their senior year and just on the cusp of the wide open world, it's time to take stock of all that's both revealed and secret and decide who and what they want to be.  If they can be brave enough to dream it.

I did not expect to like this so much.  I don't know why. I think the title threw me, maybe.  But this book had me both weeping at some points and absolutely back in my own first real teenage love the next.  The friendship here is so solid and realistic - how we know SO much about each other and yet, in our teenage selfishness, there is also so much we miss either because it hurts to much to look or because we're so caught up in our own stuff that we don't even know we're missing it.  He captures this so well and while this book is actually painful at some points (I was literally weeping), I feel like it caught me in its grip - I CARED about this three teenage kids and what happened to them.  The contrast between all the parents seemed a bit extreme but not in an unrealistic way - just in the way I would've noticed as a teen myself - hating my own life and wondering "why can't I have parents like that?"  The writing is refreshing - quirky and passionate.  Lydia has some awesome one liners that I had to highlight as I read.

While there is enough language and sexual tension that I'd hesitate to give it to a young teen, there is a lot of heart in this book and to step into the heartache that can live in a rural and outcast life is, I think, a good thing.

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