Book Review by Aarene Storms: The Serpent King

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Dill has two friends and two problems.

Dill's friends are Travis and Lydia. Travis is big, shy, kind, and so obsessed with his favorite sword-and-sorcery book that he can mostly ignore his lousy home life. Lydia is cute, smart, rich, upwardly mobile, and aimed OUT of the dinky backwater Tennessee town (named for a founding member of the KKK, wahoo!) where they all live.

Dill's problems are his name and his future. His name is Dillard Early, Jr, and he was named for his father, Dillard Early, Sr., (known locally as the Pervert Preacher), and for his papaw, (known locally as the Serpent King). His future looks a lot like his present day, and that's not good.

Then something happens to make Dill's life unbearable. The reader knows that something is going to change. But ... what?

If you think you know what will happen to the preacher's kid from "one of those crazy snake churches," you are probably wrong. The journey is not predictable, and yet, it all makes sense. Extra stars for religious extremists who are deeper than the paper on which they are written, and for religious questioning without obvious answers.

You may see this book compared to the works of John Green, and while I understand the comparison, I also don't think this reads like a JG book. It has some excellent (and some dreadful) parent characters, it has super-tough situations, there is kissing on the page. But JG rarely touches religion, and I don't know if he could handle (pun intended) a snake church.

And if there's sex, I missed it. It might have happened off-page. In fact, I kind of hope it did.

Rivoting read, recommended for readers ages 12 to adult, and it definitely needs to be a movie!


The events may not have happened; still, the story is true.  --R. Silvern

Aarene Storms, youth services librarian
Richmond Beach and Lake Forest Park Libraries, KCLS



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