The Serpent King

Publisher: Tundra Books
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.

PRAISE FOR

Praise for The Serpent King:

 “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 Publishers Weekly 

"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 Kirkus Reviews  

“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 Bulletin 

“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.”
STARRED REVIEW Shelf-Awareness

"Zentner's prose wraps you up like a warm, Southern hug and packs the punches of a sweaty country brawl ... The Serpent King is a debut you won't be able to resist or forget. The Southern Boy in me savored every syllable and the reader in me fell in love with every page."
— John Corey Whaley, author of Where Things Come Back, winner of the Michael L. Printz Award and William C. Morris Award

"The Serpent King is by turns melancholic and hopeful, beautifully weaving rural privation, teenage friendship, and the burden of family legacy into a work that unnerves and uplifts. In particular, teenage blogger Lydia stuns ... preternaturally armored and savvy, but still achingly vulnerable, a fascinatingly complex, outspoken, hilarious and relatable stand-in for smart girls everywhere who plot their escapes from towns too cramped to contain them." 
— Tracy Moore, writer for Jezebel.com, and author of Oops! How to Rock the Mother of All Surprises