Tuesday, August 16, 2016

THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner. New York: Random House Children’s Books, 2016.  372p. ISBN 9780-55352402-4 hc. $17.99    Gr. 9-12    YA FIC

Dill Early comes from a long line of Pentecostal preachers who believe that their faith in the Lord will keep them safe from the poisonous serpents they handle during church services.  Dill's not so sure.  He tries his best to be a good son, but his repressive parents, who have fallen from grace, expect him to work toward paying off their debts without a thought to his welfare. Luckily, Dill has two good friends in Travis and Lydia.  Travis navigates the unpredictable actions of a drunkard father by retreating into the world of fantasy books.  Lydia has great parents who are genuine role models for the group, allowing her to achieve more in the academic and extra-curricular realm than the boys.  The three friends reveal their last year of high school to readers through conversation, glimpses into their home life, and individual plans for the future.  Zentner's first teen novel is a well-written study of life's unfairness, the differences in the families we grow up in, and the hopefulness of youth; told by each of the friends in their own chapters.  Keep your tissues close at hand for tears of joy and sorrow that may result from the reading of this memorable story.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI 

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