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The Serpent King
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The Serpent King
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“The Serpent King is a book 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...
“The Serpent King is a book 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...
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  • The Serpent King is a book 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, National Book Award finalist and Printz Award winner
     
    Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.
     
    He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.
     
    Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

    Includes the song “Birds Fly South,” performed by the author and Elin Palmer.

    Praise for The Serpent King:
    "Zentner combines the melancholy of being 17 with the melancholy present in the best of Southern fiction and gives us a novel that will fill the infinite space that was left in your chest after you finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower." — BookRiot

    "The Serpent King gripped me in its coils and kept me turning pages late into the night. A triumph of love and dignity."—Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • From the cover 1

    Dill

    There were things Dillard Wayne Early Jr. dreaded more than the start of school at Forrestville High. Not many, but a few. Thinking about the future was one of them. Dill didn’t enjoy doing that. He didn’t much care for talking about religion with his mother. That never left him feeling happy or saved. He loathed the flash of recognition that usually passed across people’s faces when they learned his name. That rarely resulted in a conversation he enjoyed.

    And he really didn’t enjoy visiting his father, Pastor Dillard Early Sr., at Riverbend Prison. His trip to Nashville that day wasn’t to visit his father, but he still had a nagging sense of unformed dread and he didn’t know why. It might have been because school was starting the next day, but this felt different somehow than in years past.

    It would have been worse except for the excitement of seeing Lydia. The worst days spent with her were better than the best days spent without her.

    Dill stopped strumming his guitar, leaned forward, and wrote in the dollar-store composition book open on the floor in front of him. The decrepit window air conditioner wheezed, losing the battle against the mugginess of his living room.

    The thudding of a wasp at the window caught his attention over the laboring of the air conditioner. He rose from the ripped sofa and walked to the window, which he jimmied until it screeched open.

    Dill swatted the wasp toward the crack. “You don’t want to stay in here,” he murmured. “This house is no place to die. Go on. Get.”

    It alighted on the sill, considered the house one more time, and flew free. Dill shut the window, almost having to hang from it to close it all the way.

    His mother walked in wearing her motel maid’s uniform. She looked tired. She always did, which made her seem much older than her thirty-five years. “What were you doing with the window open and the AC on? Electricity’s not free.”

    Dill turned. “Wasp.”

    “Why you all dressed to leave? You going somewhere?”

    “Nashville.” Please don’t ask the question I know you’re going to ask.

    “Visiting your father?” She sounded both hopeful and accusatory.

    “No.” Dill looked away.

    His mother stepped toward him and sought his eyes. “Why not?”

    Dill avoided her glare. “Because. That’s not why we’re going.”

    “Who’s we?”

    “Me. Lydia. Travis. Same as always.”

    She put a hand on her hip. “Why you going, then?”

    “School clothes.”

    “Your clothes are fine.”

    “No they’re not. They’re getting too small.” Dill lifted his skinny arms, his T-shirt exposing his lean stomach.

    “With what money?” His mother’s brow—already more lined than most women’s her age—furrowed.

    “Just my tips from helping people to their cars with their groceries.”

    “Free trip to Nashville. You should visit your father.”

    You better go visit your father or else, you mean. Dill set his jaw and looked at her. “I don’t want to. I hate it there.”

    She folded her arms. “It’s not meant to be fun. That’s why it’s prison. Think he enjoys it?”

    Probably more than I enjoy it. Dill shrugged and gazed back out the window. “Doubt it.”

    “I don’t ask for much, Dillard. It would make me happy. And it would make him...

About the Author-

  • Before becoming a writer, JEFF ZENTNER was a singer-songwriter and guitarist who recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, and Debbie Harry. He lives in Nashville with his wife and son. Committed to making creativity a part of his everyday life, Zentner wrote both his debut novel, The Serpent King, and his follow-up book, Goodbye Days, on his iPhone while taking the bus to and from work. You can follow Zentner on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter at @jeffzentner.

Reviews-

  • AudioFile Magazine Three narrators deliver the alternating voices of three protagonists. Lydia, Dill, and Travis are graduating seniors who have supported each other through the challenges of school, home, and rural living. Ariadne Meyers renders the wit and confidence of Lydia, a fashionista blogger who is eager to depart for college. Michael Crouch portrays Dill's disguised passion for Lydia and barely constrained disgust for his snake-handling preacher father who's been imprisoned for child pornography. Ethan Sawyer contrasts Travis's gentle, dreamy nature with the menacing tone of his demeaning father. All the narrators deliver nuanced, engaging depictions, which strengthen as the characters grow and their relationships evolve. Listeners will be engrossed by their disturbing stories. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 14, 2015
    Forrestville, Tenn., named after Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, isn’t exactly a welcome place for slightly ouside-the-mainstream folks like friends Dillard, Lydia, and Travis. Dill is a high school senior whose snake-handling preacher father is currently incarcerated; Lydia, a successful fashion blogger, plans on attending NYU after graduation; and Travis, large of body and gentle of soul, loses himself (and the pain of his father’s physical and emotional abuse) in a fantasy series called Bloodfall. While Dill finds comfort and beauty in music, Travis’s innate kindness belies his circumstances, and Lydia’s incandescent, gleefully offbeat personality draws them together. As the novel, Zentner’s debut, builds to a shocking act of violence that shatters the friends’ world, this sepia-toned portrait of small-town life serves as a moving testament to love, loyalty, faith, and reaching through the darkness to find light and hope. 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. Ages 14–up. Agent: Charlie Olsen, Inkwell Management.

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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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