The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (369 pages)
Overview: Lydia, Travis, and Dill are three of the least satisfied citizens of Forrestville, Tennessee. The three best friends are outcasts, each with their own motivations keeping them afloat. They all wonder about their futures. Lydia is getting out of their awful town to go to NYU and study journalism, and her fashion blog Dollywould will, hopefully, get her there. Dill is still trying to shake his father and grandfather's reputation after his father goes to the state prison for child pornography possession that he tried to blame on his son. Even before, though, his father's radical serpent, Christian church pointed out his difference to the other students. Travis just loves the Bloodfall books which he uses to get through his rough days at school and the lumberyard and rough nights with his father. They're all going somewhere, but you're never quite sure how or if they'll make it. Overall: 4
Characters: 5 I enjoyed all three of the main characters. I really identified with Lydia and her actions throughout. Her ambition, intelligence, and attention is refreshing. I sympathized with Dill as he dealt with his father's mess while grappling with what it means to be a Christian. Finally, Travis and his devotion to the fandom and his gentle giant nature made for a good addition to the trio.
Plot: 5 I have to give it to Zentner. The plot kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I finished the book remarkably fast. It was interesting and fast paced. There were certainly twists that I didn't see coming. While I was never particularly emotionally engaged, I did sense the deep urgency.
Writing: 3 I do think that Zentner did a good job with the characters, plot, and pacing. Where the story fell flat for me was on a sentence by sentence level. While he was able to keep the story moving, the sentences were long and overfilled with adjectives. It just felt like he was trying too hard to be a "writer" with his debut, something I can say he got over with his sophomore, The Goodbye Days. To Buy Now: Click Here