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The Serpent King

Cover of The Serpent King

The Serpent King

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.
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.
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Awards-
About the Author-
  • 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 King is his first novel. You can follow Zentner on Facebook, Instagram, and on Twitter at @jeffzentner. The author lives in Nashville, TN.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 14, 2015
    Forrestville, Tenn., named after Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, isn’t exactly a welcome place for slightly ouside-the-mainstream folks like friends Dillard, Lydia, and Travis. Dill is a high school senior whose snake-handling preacher father is currently incarcerated; Lydia, a successful fashion blogger, plans on attending NYU after graduation; and Travis, large of body and gentle of soul, loses himself (and the pain of his father’s physical and emotional abuse) in a fantasy series called Bloodfall. While Dill finds comfort and beauty in music, Travis’s innate kindness belies his circumstances, and Lydia’s incandescent, gleefully offbeat personality draws them together. As the novel, Zentner’s debut, builds to a shocking act of violence that shatters the friends’ world, this sepia-toned portrait of small-town life serves as a moving testament to love, loyalty, faith, and reaching through the darkness to find light and hope. 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. Ages 14–up. Agent: Charlie Olsen, Inkwell Management.

  • Starred Review, Publishers Weekly "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, Kirkus Reviews "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, Bulletin "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, Shelf-Awareness "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."
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