The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
OFFICIAL THE SERPENT KING PLAYLIST:
"Sometimes the only payoff for having any faith
Is when it's tested again and again every day!"
-Fall Out Boy, "Immortals"
"Love will tear us apart...again."
"It's just a reflection of a reflection...
Will I see you on the other side?
We've all got things to hide..."
-Arcade Fire, "Reflektor"
"All you sinners stand up, sing hallelujah!
Show praise with your body, stand up, sing hallelujah!
And if you can't stop shaking, lean back, let it move right through ya!
Say your prayers, say your prayers, say your prayers!"
-Panic! At The Disco
"Oh, we all want the same thing.
Oh, we all run for something.
Run for God, for fate,
For love, for hate,
For gold, for rust,
For diamonds, for dust..."
-OneRepublic, "Love Runs Out"
"When we are young
Wandering the face of the earth
Wondering what our dreams might be worth
Learning that we're only immortal for a limited time..."
"There is whiskey in the water
And there is death upon the vine
There is fear in the eyes of your father
And there is yours, and there is mine..."
-Death Cab For Cutie, "Black Sun"
"The love for what you hide
The bitterness inside
Is growing like a new born..."
"You'll be on my mind
Don't give yourself away
To the weight of love..."
-The Black Keys
"Oh, but I know a place where we can go
That's still untouched by men
So we can watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind..."
-Don Henley, "The End of the Innocence"
"And in the end
I'd do it all again
I think you're my best friend
Don't you know that the kids aren't all
Kids aren't alright?"
-Fall Out Boy
"Sometimes music worked on the loneliness. Other times, when he felt as if he were sitting at the bottom of a dry well, looking up at the sky, it didn't work at all."
It's a sin how much I can relate to all three of this book's protagonists. There's Travis, the reader, writer (although that doesn't come till later) and fanboy who isn't truly alive unless he's reading his beloved Bloodfall novels (loosely based on A Song of Ice and Fire, if I'm not mistaken, with a GRRM-esque author.) There's Lydia, who dreams big and can use her slowly-built-up internet fame as her ticket out of small-town Tennessee. And then there's Dill, the son of one of those snake-handling ministers I think they showed once on a particularly controversial episode of The X-Files. His parents are mired in religion and think God has a specific plan for him - following in the footsteps of his father and his father's fathers - except they're wrong.
Me, personally, I think the snakes that Dill's father would handle accepted him as one of their own because they saw him as truly one of them. A few years back, Dill Senior was caught with kiddie porn on his computer, and I was extremely shocked when Dill Junior's parents tried to get him to take the blame for it, thinking that he wouldn't be in as much trouble because he was a minor. Um, ew. That's just the beginning of why I hate Dill's parents so much - they, ironically, are so Christian that they're haughty, refusing to be truly held accountable for their mistakes and/or sins, and come across as more than a bit prideful. (This is why, if I'm lucky enough to have kids of my own, I won't want to raise them with religion.) Parents in general make some of the worst parts of this book (except Lydia's folks. They're cool.) Travis' dad is even more bad news - drunk, prone to slinging gay slurs at his son in an attempt to toughen him up, and just plain an animal. There were times in this book (anyone who's read through this already will know exactly which ones I'm talking about - no spoilers, though!) when I wanted to reach into the page and drive an axe through his skull.
All throughout this book, Dill, Lydia, and Travis prove to be some of the best friends (and, in the case of the former two, possibly more, what with their unspoken feelings for each other) ever seen in YA literature. Which, of course, means that this book will feature some tragedy. And yes, it absolutely breaks the heart. It made me cry. A lot. Ugly tears too. (And some of my readers think I have no feelings, based on my perceived fetish for killing main characters.) But again, it comes back to how much I relate to these three best friends. Though I'm not Southern, and I didn't grow up in a small town, I still feel their pain. All of it. And especially the loneliness in the above quote.
So, basically, just like Silvera's More Happy Than Not, five stars to this one for feels alone.
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