Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
pub 3/8/16 by Crown Books
for Young Readers
YA - Contemporary
I’ll be honest, The Serpent King isn’t a book I would’ve picked up on my own. I didn’t see myself connecting to the story or its characters but once the all positive reviews started rolling in (many of them from friends!), I wanted to see for myself what the hype was all about. And not only was it much deserved but I deeply connected to this book. The author’s writing is so evocative that I couldn’t help feeling invested in the slowly unfolding events of Dill, Lydia and Travis’ lives as they wondered what the future held for each of them.

Dill, Lydia and Travis are unique souls, trying to figure who they are in a small town along the Bible belt. In another person’s hands, they could’ve easily become caricatures but Zentner makes them feel heartbreakingly real from the start. There’s Dill who’s dealing with the aftermath of his father’s fall from grace (he’s a Pentecostal minister & prominent figure) and how the community reacts. He’s afraid of following in his footsteps and of being stuck in this town forever. Then there are his best friends Lydia and Travis. Lydia is a city girl at heart, with lofty aspirations and an edgy fashion blog helping her get there. But what she does love about home are Dill, Travis and her parents. Likewise for Travis, it’s their friendship that keeps him afloat, along with his love of fantasy books (!) and an online community who understands his inner fanboy. It sounds like their friendship shouldn’t make sense but it does and their bond was easily my favorite thing about the book.

But what makes the book stand out is how it delves into so many different, important themes seamlessly. There’s religion and the fanaticism that can rise up from it, small town mentalities, friendship, love, messy families, online communities, the future and wanting more for yourself. I personally haven’t read a contemporary like it and I’m so glad I decided to read it.

Do I recommend?
Yes! Honestly, don’t even read the synopsis or debate. Just go out and borrow/buy the book.


  1. Yes! I loved this book after about the first 20%. The last 80% was so overwhelmingly good for me I still gave it five stars. It is tied with The Smell Of Other People's Houses as my top book so far this year. I spent from 7-14 years old in an Evangelical household and it was pretty similar, minus the snakes and poison. So it really resonated with me. Great review. :)

  2. I also read this book, because I had to see what all the hype was about, and I wan not disappointed. I agree that the way Zentner wove all those themes together was beautiful. I LOVED this book, and I keep trying to get people to read it. Zentner gave me drama, laughs, and tears. Great review.


with love,