meg says read this, Read This

Read This: The Serpent King

For those of you looking for book recommendations, I just finished The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner this weekend. It was on my list for a while, but I had to work myself up to this one. Astonishingly beautiful, even though I had to wait for the tears to pass to finish it. That being said, most definitely check it out!
Dillard, Travis, and Lydia are high school seniors in small town Forrestville, Tennessee. They’re kind of a misfit band of three musketeers in a school that doesn’t have too many open minded students. Lydia has a fashion blog (appropriately named Dollywood,) and has big dreams of leaving their town for the city. Lydia’s dad is a dentist, her mom is in real estate, and they live a comfortable life together. They’re supportive and caring parents, and they try to be inclusive of her friends when they can. Dillard shares a name with his father, and grandfather, who were both snake handlers in their church. Dillard’s father is in prison for child pornography, and it seems Dill is carrying his father’s shame on his own back. Even Dillard’s mom harbors hard feelings as if it’s her son’s fault for the hardships they’ve fallen on. Dillard doesn’t let himself dream big, feeling he has a responsibility to take care of his mother, but he has huge talent lurking below the surface and a calling to honor his musical ability. Travis is the quiet one of the bunch. Most of the time he’s lost in thought related to the fantasy world science fiction series he loves. He makes worlds of his own in his head, and imagines himself a knight to escape the brunt of his father’s drunken rages. Each of them has their own demons to escape, whether it’s fear of being found out that your reputation of “being yourself” isn’t so true, if you’re hiding the biggest part of your life, or the fear of succumbing to inherited darkness, or the fear of not being able to stand up for yourself in the way you most badly want to, be the defender of the people who matter most.
This is Zentner’s debut novel, and it is so astonishingly beautiful. The way he phrases such delicately crafted details is incredible. Zentner weaves a story of friendship, coming of age, love, faith, what it means to be a family, and taking risks because the outcome has to be better than being stagnant. I found it painful, but also refreshing how realistic he was about each character’s home life and background. Everyone has a story, even the people closest to you, you think you already know. There are battles everyone faces each day, to rise above circumstance, to outlast the struggles inside. I stayed up late into the night, tears steaming down my face, shoulders shaking as I cried for these kids and their stories. Each time I thought I was ready to continue, I’d turn the page and the next passage would make me start all over. That said, it’s totally worth the heart wrenching roller coaster it takes you on. The Serpent King flows the way life does with its ups and downs and times of uncertainty, but usually you come out alright on the other side. This is one of those stories that is so realistically balanced in truth, that I dare say it should be required reading – it enables you to get such a well rounded view from many perspectives. It’s a reminder to treasure the little things, and that stepping out on a limb is the real way to get the greatest reward. I knew this book was gonna be a shake up, the kind that turns you inside out a little with all of the feelings to process, but I’m so glad Ifinally read it. The book was so dang great, I can’t even be mad it felt like somebody reached into my chest and pulled my heart out. What are you waiting for? Dive in!

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