[Book Review #70] The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner


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. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. 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.

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.

Book Specifications:

Author: Jeff Zentner

Format: Paperback

Part of a Series: No. Standalone.

Release Date: May 8, 2016

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

No. of Pages: 384pages

Price: Php525.00

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Coming of Age, Romance, Religion, Teen, Family

Book Review:


After reading More Happy Than Not, my friends and I were on the lookout for our next book to buddy read. My Hobnobbers family and I have been buddy reading plenty of books in the past, including Simon V.S. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, More Happy Than Not, and a lot more. And last Monday, we decided to read The Serpent King next. We’ve been hearing lots of great things about it, and we were more than happy to get started with Jeff Zentner’s debut novel.

I was confused when I first started the book. There were serpents mentioned, and lots of other things that made me wonder if I was reading either a contemporary, a thriller, or a fantasy, and lo and behold! After a few more pages, I definitely identified it to be a contemporary.

The story started out great. It was another novel about a group of misfits trying to fit in and get through high school life alive. We see bullies, we see neglectful parents, and we see our main characters as children who want to get a move on but is limited to their environment and resources. It may be just another novel about misfits getting by, but Jeff perfectly portrayed his characters to be as real and as diverse as can be. We have Dillard, who is a son to a controversial dad and an extremely religious mother with debts. We have Lydia, a blogger from a loving family, who struggles to make peace with her environment. And lastly, we have Travis, a happy-go-lucky guy who is possibly the best “bestfriend” I have ever read about. These kids made quite an impact on me, and they’re the reason why I loved the book.

I love how the value of friendship was highlighted all through out this book. From beginning to end, Jeff perfectly taught his readers how it is to have a best friend. How you should be happy for your best friend if he/she accomplished something big. How you should always strive to bring out the best in each other, and not be competitive and tear each other down. And from there, I realized that this isn’t just an inspiring story. It’s a wake up call to those who make friends and gets competitive. Always remember that your friends are there to make you shine brighter, and you should never fight over something so petty.

With The Serpent King, we see how Jeff Zentner is truly capable of keeping readers’ interest at bay, and he sure knows how to make an impact. His writing style seems new and refreshing, for reasons only I might understand. His way of writing in a mellow pace while building up to serve a shocking turn of events will leave you dumbfounded, making your reading experience of his book worthwhile. I loved how he built the entire story to accommodate a major twist, as well as how it all turned out in the end.

All in all, The Serpent King turned out to be such a great and enlightening read, and I would like to thank my friend Cedie for suggesting this book to be our squad’s book to buddy read!

“The Serpent King is not just some book about faith and self-discovery. It’s a literary gem that’s filled with faith, hope, dreams, and tragedy. It might not look like it, but this is quite a feels-inducing novel.”


Characters – 4.50

Plot – 4.50

Writing Style – 4.50

Pacing – 4.50

Ending – 4.50

TOTAL – 4.5 / 5 Stars

Quotable Quotes:

“Writing is something that you can learn only by doing. To become a writer, you need an imagination, which you clearly have. You need to read books, which you clearly do. And you need to write, which you don’t yet do, but should.” – Lydia

“My fantasies are more interesting than the real world and machines and tools are more interesting than you guys’ fantasies.” – Travis

“We are a fallen species, spitting on the gift of salvation. Humanity is irredeemable.”

“We live in a series of moments and seasons and sense memories, strung end to end to form a sort of story.”

“Irrationality loves company.”

“The seasons don’t stop. This river doesn’t stop. Vultures will keep flying in circles. The lives of the people we love won’t stop. Time keeps unspooling. Stories keep getting written.” – Lydia

“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”

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.

Twitter || Goodreads || Website


6 thoughts on “[Book Review #70] The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

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