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.
Description taken from Goodreads.
If The Rest of Just Live Here had been written the way this is written, I would’ve loved it a lot more, but it still wouldn’t have been a four star book. I think that’s the best way to convey my feelings toward this novel.
The reason why I brought up The Rest of Us Just Live Here is because the storytelling reminded me of that. Yes, there is a tangible plot. That part can’t be denied. But the book feels choppy, somehow, like it’s made up of episodes and small adventures like How I Met Your Mother. They progressively move toward finding out who the mother is, but they go on some irrelevant (if hilarious) tangents along the way.
There were parts of The Serpent King that were brilliantly insightful or deeply funny/sad, but in the end, it didn’t mean that much to me. Having tragedy in a novel doesn’t mean it will be important to every reader, and something about this story just didn’t strike a chord with me.
That doesn’t mean it was badly written. That doesn’t mean I hated the characters. It just wasn’t my story.
I think I rest my case in that respect. That being said, this story did stick with me and impact me while I was reading it. I loved getting to know the characters. They’re all flawed and real and powerful in their own ways. They did irritate me, each one by one, but I could understand and justify why they were the way they were. Their relationships weren’t perfect, and that ended up being okay even though I wanted to see more between Lydia and Dill.
AND LYDIA IS A BLOGGER. Honestly, knowing her and having just read 369 pages of her, I don’t think we would get along well, but she seems like a fun person to watch without getting too involved. The representation of bloggers here was, I felt, fairly accurate, and I loved reading about her blogging struggles and what it meant to her. It all fit well into the story. I also appreciated the way that Zentner showed how it came between her and her real life friends.
Then there are Travis and Dill. All three of these characters are unique in their struggles, but their friendship keeps them tightly knit. I loved the way they looked out for each other, especially between Travis and Dill toward the end. Despite my initial reservations, I came to love Dill and Travis, and their journeys were my favorite part of The Serpent King.
When it comes to the writing, I would say it made this book. It was flowery, but not forced, and it even had some great quotes to boot. I would go so far as to say you can just think of this as John Green for the South. It was perfect for this novel, and I would love to see what Jeff Zentner comes out with later if he continues writing novels for young adults.
All put together, I would say this is a worthwhile read. It didn’t leave me with that deep, cutting feeling of reading a book that means a lot to you, and I can’t say without a doubt that it was memorable. BUT. It made me think. It had a satisfying and realistic ending. It showed me a world that I hadn’t experienced much of in literature yet, and it definitely had its great moments. Even though it wasn’t the right story for me, I’ll be recommending it.