Posted in Book Reviews

Review of The Serpent King

I have probably mentioned before, but I try not to read any reviews until after I have finished a book and written my own review. I’m interested to see what others thought of this book.

The book flawlessly follows three older teens figuring out life in a small, rural town in Tennessee. Like many YA novels, the author flows between the three teens, so that the reader gets to see life from each of their perspectives. None of the three teens have an easy time in their small town.

Dill’s dad (who is also named Dillard)is in prison for child pornography, which is awful, but his dad was also a “signs” preacher, so it was even more disgraceful, or should have been. (Signs preacher – believes in speaking in tongues, handling deadly snakes, and drinking poison, among other things.) Dill’s dad’s imprisonment has made life hard on his family, and you find out pretty early on that Dill lives in extreme poverty. His family has a mountain of debt from losing the church and medical bills from his mother’s accident. His mother is set on Dill staying in their small town, working at the grocery store, and helping her pay off the debts instead of him going to college or even finishing his senior year of high school.

Travis has it a little better than Dill as far as the poverty level. His dad isn’t in prison either, but Travis probably wishes that he were. Travis is a big guy who is a little obsessed (understatement) with a fantasy novel series. His dad wishes he would play football, but Travis just likes to read his books. This causes a lot of problems between the two of them, probably more serious problems than it should have caused due to his dad’s alcohol habit.

Lydia was my least favorite character for most of the book. She is really in to unique fashion and has a very successful blog that makes her pretty popular in the internet world. However, the people in her community don’t understand her, and so she’s an outcast, a fact that she uses to her advantage to gain sympathy and support on her blog.

So I finished this book two days ago. Usually, I write a blog right after I finish a book so it’s fresh in my mind. But every time I sat down to write my review, I couldn’t quite figure out what to say without giving away too much of the story.

I’m still not sure what to say. I loved this book. Out of all the books I have reviewed for this blog, it has been my favorite. I just really am having a hard time putting it in to words. First, Dill was such a unique character. He was quiet, thoughtful, and wanted to do the right thing. Growing up with his parents and everything that had happened with his dad, he could have had a much different disposition.

The friendship between the three outsider kids is something I see all the time as a teacher. The quirky kids always seem to find each other, and most of the time, they’re better off for it. That is how it is with Dill, Travis, and Lydia. Their friendship helped them feel connected and like that had a place in a community that didn’t really want to give them a place.

I found myself absolutely shocked and heartbroken toward the end of the book. I did not see the events that happened coming, and it was unfortunate that I was reading during SSR time at summer school because I couldn’t cry the way I wanted/needed to. Maybe that’s another reason it has taken me two days to finish this review. My heart still hurts.

This book was a Gateway nominee for last school year. It didn’t make the top three, and the only one of the top three that I have read is The Sun Is Also a Star and I liked this book so much better than that. I will say, if you have no knowledge of charismatic churches or the Bible, you may be lost on a couple passages with Dill and his mom, but not so lost as to miss the nature of what is happening. However, while faith is a big part of Dill’s life, it isn’t the main focus of the book.

How much did it make me cry? *Would have been different if I was home alone instead of in a class of 7th graders.

  • Not at all
  • A little sniffle
  • A couple of tears
  • A steady stream
  • Ugly Cry


17 years of teaching experience 100s of books read

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