The Serpent King by Jeff ZentnerThe Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King

byJeff Zentner

Hardcover | March 8, 2016

Pricing and Purchase Info

$19.57 online 
$21.99 list price save 11%
Earn 98 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores


Dillard Early, Jr., Travis Bohannon and Lydia Blankenship are three friends from different walks of life who have one thing in common: none of them seem to fit the mold in rural Tennessee's Forrestville High. Dill has always been branded as an outsider due to his family heritage as snake handlers and poison drinkers, an essential part of their Pentecostal faith. But after his father is sent to prison for sexual abuse of a young parishioner, Dill and his mother become real pariahs. His only two friends are Travis, a gentle giant who works at his family's lumberyard and is obsessed with a Game of Thrones-like fantasy series (much to his alcoholic father's chagrin); and Lydia, who runs a popular fashion blog that's part Tavi Gevinson and part Angela Chase, and is actively plotting her escape from Redneckville, Tennessee.
As the three friends begin their senior year, it becomes clear that they won't all be getting to start a promising new life after graduation. How they deal with their diverging paths could cause the end of their friendship. Until a shattering act of random violence forces Dill to wrestle with his dark legacy and find a way into the light of a future worth living.
Jeff Zentner is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who has recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and Debbie Harry. In addition to writing and recording his own music, Zentner works with young musicians at Tennessee Teen Rock Camp, which inspired him to write a novel for young adults. He lives in Nashville with his wife and son. The Serpent ...
Title:The Serpent KingFormat:HardcoverDimensions:384 pages, 8.56 × 5.81 × 1.25 inPublished:March 8, 2016Publisher:TundraLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1770498834

ISBN - 13:9781770498839


Rated 3 out of 5 by from Pleasantly Surprised! Decided to pick this book up when it was on sale. I went into blind, having not really read the synopsis so I didn't really know what to expect or where the story was going but I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it. It was simple, emotional and enlightening. The story follows the lives of three misfits looking to escape the confines of their small town and lead a better life. I wish there was more character development and a little bit more development regarding the snake aspect of the book because I think with the religious elements, the author could really have taped into something there but I don't feel like I reached deep enough. Not the best book I've read, but still worth the read.
Date published: 2016-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An amazing contemporary that will make and break your heart The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner effervesces with the warmth and darkness of a small Southern Gothic town. Zentner creates an atmosphere that is both stiflingly oppressive and starkly beautiful – a landscape where both ramshackle homes and restored Victorians can coexist, where there’s dignity in both wanting to leave a small town and wanting to stay. It’s the beginning of senior year, and our main characters, Lydia, Travis and Dill are best friends looking to the future. For Lydia, the future looks bright. She’s a popular fashion blogger with a massive following and opportunities seeking her in New York City, where she hopes to go to college next year. For Travis, the future looks like more of the same, making an honest living at the lumberyard and as a mechanic, while living most of his internal life lost in Bloodfall, a fantasy book series. For Dill, the future looks bleak, scraping by a living with his mother while trying to live down the legacy of his father, a disgraced, imprisoned local preacher of an extreme ministry who would convince his congregation to handle poisonous snakes to prove their faith in Christianity. The characters leapt off the page at me. I loved Dill and Travis, but as a former fashion blogger, I saw so much of myself in Lydia. While I was never as successful as she is, so many of her thoughts throughout the novel were mine. Dill’s struggles against his very religious parents were more extreme than mine were, but nevertheless, that feeling of trying to figure out myself when everyone believes something else was foreordained for me, is something that resonated. And Travis’ online life and desire to live in his imagination is something that any book lover will identify with. Throughout the early parts of the book, you get the feeling that this trio can survive anything, whether it’s crappy dads or bullying. All three, are, of course, outcasts at their school, bullied and made fun of. In some ways, their friendship is built upon the fact that like-needs-like; and there is no one else like them in town. But it goes deeper than that. Through descriptive flashbacks, we see how they became friends and just how much of a choice their friendship was…and how friendship can be life-saving and life-changing when it is built upon genuine care and not just common interest. And then tragedy strikes. And between grief and loss and pain, things change and move. I feel like I’m just babbling here, but honestly? There is no way I can put this book into words. It pulsates with feelings, it lives and breathes with fate-vs.-choice movement, bantery dialogue, and stunning description. If I have qualms, it’s that the occasional mix of these three sometimes felt jarring and not smooth. There was a touch too much telling in the writing style. Nevertheless though, this book captivated me. The raw feeling, the real characters and the writing style had me crying and laughing, reading late into the night. This is a debut that will break your heart – and then remake it, but with shards left on the ground for you to stare at wordlessly. BONUSES: Bantery Banter: Although all of the writing is beautiful, Zentner’s grasp of real teenage dialogue is some of the best I’ve ever read. The banter is smart, fast, and funny, and it’s the interactions of the three main characters, more than anything else, that made me believe in their friendship. Parenthood: each teen’s parents are featured throughout the novel, and while most are pretty terrible (but in a way that was entirely believable), Lydia’s parents are THE BEST. Like, I want to hang out with them, because they are not only great parents but genuinely awesome people. I love seeing parents who are so supportive, but also real and aware of their kids shortcomings. Slow-Burn Romance: This isn’t a book that’s focused on romance, but hot damn, Zentner knows how to write one. Fashion Blogging: Lydia is basically a mix of Tavi Gevinson of Style Rookie and Rookie Mag and Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes – she’s that popular, cool, and unafraid to cultivate a style and look that is a mix of high and low fashion pieces. I love that someone in YA is exploring this weirdo world that I was a part of for a very short time – and how we edit and create our image online. Senior Year Choices: I mentioned this in my review, but I love how this book shows that there are options other than university, and while it doesn’t explore every option, it honestly portrays other options as possibilities. THE FINAL WORD: I lost my heart to The Serpent King – it’s undoubtedly one of the best YA contemporaries I’ll read this year. Even though this is Dill, Lydia, and Travis’ book, it’s really Dill’s story. It’s his journey that we follow with the most heartbreak and desperation, and it’s his story that shows us, in alarming relief, just how hard it can be to break free of your circumstances, and how friendship and forgiveness can save and change a life.
Date published: 2016-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Reviw from Giselle at Book Nerd Canada Told in the point of views of three characters Dill, Travis and Lydia, we have a story that is memorable, deep and tragic. Dill has a reputation trashed by his father. Travis has an obsession with a book series that is similar to Game of Thrones and Lydia is the smart sassy fashion blogger who wants nothing but to head out to college and leave the small Tennessee town behind. I can’t even begin to write this review because I’m all choked up with emotions. I am so glad I’m not the black sheep.. So I have this thing where I don’t actually read what the descriptions are about (sometimes) and I did that with this book. I initially thought this would be some sort of rain-forest fantasy adventure based on the cover. Granted I didn’t see the silhouette of the kids on the bridge until later, so imagine to my surprise when I started reading it was a contemporary! Then I was hooked from the beginning. This rarely happens to me with realistic fiction so I pretty much gobbled it up in two sittings. It’s a little about religion, a lot about friendship, family and love. Definitely a coming-of-age story that will keep you glued to its pages. I know I was. The book contains: some disgusting Un-Christian-like behaviour. I couldn’t help but cringe at times. There is swearing and even Homophobic slurs.. You will also have some of the most horrible parents as well as some of the best found in the book. Oh and I have to mention Lydia’s present to Travis? Probably every book nerd’s dream! I cried out of happiness when that part happened. I can’t sing enough praises. LOVED this book to pieces. Jeff Zentner made these characters so real to me. Made me care about each and every one of them. Cried twice (at two certain parts) and couldn’t stop remembering all the emotions I felt while reading this. Highly recommended! One of my favourite and memorable treads of the year! Run and pick up your copy, I really hope you loved it as much as I did!
Date published: 2016-03-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I cried but I loved it This was truly a punch to the heart yet simultaneously embodies a hopeful ache. Dill, the son of the local snake-handling preacher imprisoned on child pornography charges, knows the burden a name carries. He knows the burden of shame passed down through generations and carrying the blame for choices he didn't make. Lydia, the high achieving popular fashion blog owner along with Travis, the fantasy reading gentle giant complete this trio. It's a friendship that feels real and without the forced quirkiness of pixie girls or nerdy brainiacs. With a melancholy tone and compelling story telling, The Serpent King feels like an atmospheric coming-of-age indie flick. The story explores faith, friendships and defining yourself with a subtle intensity. I related deeply to these three characters and I appreciate the honesty with which its clear Jeff Zentner wrote them. I really loved this book and I'm left with lasting thoughts and feelings.
Date published: 2016-03-01

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Serpent King: “Zentner explores difficult themes head on—including the desire to escape the sins of the father and the fragility of happiness—while tempering them with the saving grace of enduring friendship.” --Starred Review, Publishers Weekly "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 writes with understanding and grace—a new voice to savor." --Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews  “The third-person narration manages to convey distinct flavor for each deeply personal and introspective storyline, so each character emerges as an authentic individual, flawed yet lovable, and readers will find themselves drawn by the heartstrings into their complex lives.” --Starred Review, Bulletin “Pens would run dry if readers were to underline extraordinary sentences—the kind that are so true, or funny, or beautiful that they clamp hearts . . . [an] extraordinary YA debut.” --Starred Review, Shelf-Awareness