Monday, August 8, 2016

Recently Read: The Serpent King

Author: Jeff Zentner
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publication Date: 2016
Page Count: 384
Rating: 4/5

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Dill lives in small-town, religious America. His father is a Pentecostal minister of a church that deals in dangerous trusts with God, well he was until he was arrested. Now Dill is feeling stuck in his life and town, trying to make ends meet with his mom and shouldering guilt for his father's actions. The two bright spots in his life are his best friends Travis and Lydia. The three teens battle to both accept and escape their small town as they graduate from high school,

I had heard a lot of good things about this book but didn't really know what it was about when I picked it up so I was pleasantly surprised with the themes that it dealt with. I loved the theme of the small-town struggle and how religion was dealt with in this novel. I haven't read a lot of YA novels that deal with questioning and accepting religion the way this one does. I come from a small rural town myself and know the large part religion plays in the lives of many that live this way. The religion in this novel is intense, bordering on a cult, and it's hold is a vital part of Dill and his character development. I am not religious myself, but I found this element of the novel really fascinating and it felt very authentic.

I loved Travis; he was unashamedly himself at all times, which I admired very much. He is fiercely loyal and adds great contrast to Dill. Lydia, I had some issues with. To me, she almost felt a little too typical teenage-girl-in-a-YA-novel but at times she had moments of growth and development that I appreciated. Dill was a great character, he was real and complicated and deserving of sympathy; he made real and important growth. 

This book did a great job of honestly portraying the struggle that many kids from small towns face when trying to move on to better and bigger things. I really felt for Dill and was happy for the progress he made in this novel; I thought this was a great and unique coming of age novel that dealt with issues beyond the typical YA issues that were still very much real. I'm not the biggest fan of contemporaries, but I really enjoyed this and flew threw it in two days. I would recommend picking this one up if you are a contemporary buff looking for something a little different, or if you aren't a fan of the typical contemporary. I'm very interested to see what Zentner will do in the future. 

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