Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Books I've Loved: The Serpent King

I wanted to read this one as soon as I first became aware of its existence, so I was pretty excited to find it at the library last week.  Sometimes a book you've been looking forward to reading is a disappointment.  This one wasn't.

It's about a guy called Dillard.   Dillard's father and grandfather are also called Dillard.  Dillard senior is a Pentecostal minister in one of those churches that handle snakes and drink poison to confirm the existence of god and his mercy.  Dillard senior is also in jail for having kiddie porn on his computer.

This leaves Dill alone with his mother in their crappy house, struggling to make ends meet.  He dreads having to go and visit his father in prison, but goes, even though he comes away frightened and depressed every time.

Despite his horrible home-life, Dill has a couple of bright spots in his world.  He has two amazing friends, Travis and Lydia, and his father's instance that he play in the church's praise band has given him the gift of music - not that he's brave enough to share his songs with anyone.

The book follows Dill and his friends through their last year at high school.  Lydia is certain of her future: college in NYC, fame and fortune via her popular fashion blog.  Travis is certain of his too: stay in the small town and work at his father's lumberyard.  Dill is sure he's staying too.  The family is in debt and he's expected to help pull them out of it.

As the end of the school year gets closer, Dill becomes more desperate.  His feelings for Lydia are changing and the thought of her leaving becomes almost too painful to bear.  And the thought of staying in the small town where he's judged by everyone becomes more than he can bear.

I loved this book.  The characters are very real and raw.  I felt for them through their highs and lows, and even cried a little bit in one part - I won't tell you why.

So go read this one.  You won't regret it.

But don't just take my word for it.  Here's the blurb:

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.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill's only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core.