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The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
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The Serpent King

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The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Paperback $12.99
Jun 06, 2017 | ISBN 9780553524055

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    Jun 06, 2017 | ISBN 9780553524055 | Young Adult

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  • Jun 06, 2017 | ISBN 9780553524048 | Young Adult

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  • Mar 08, 2016 | ISBN 9780147521323 | Young Adult

    548 Minutes

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Product Details


A William C. Morris Award Winner
A New York Times Notable Book
An Amazon Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A BuzzFeed Best YA Book of the Year
A Mashable Best YA Book of the Year
A Shelf Awareness Best Teen Book of the Year
A Hudson Booksellers Best Book of the Year
A B&N Best YA Book of the Year
A Southern Living Best Book of the Year
An Indie Next List Top Ten Selection
A Paste Magazine and Most Anticipated YA Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Spring 2016 Flying Start

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

A triumph of love and dignity.” –Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author

Move over, John Green; Zentner is coming for you.” –The New York Public Library

Will fill the infinite space that was left in your chest after you finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” –  

“A story about friendship, family and forgiveness, it’s as funny and witty as it is utterly heartbreaking.” –

“A brutally honest portrayal of teen life . . . [and] a love letter to the South from a man who really understands it.” –

I adored all three of these characters and the way they talked to and loved one another.” –New York Times Book Review

A new voice to savor.” –Kirkus, Starred

“[T]his 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.” –PW, Starred

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.” –Shelf Awareness, Starred

“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.” –The Bulletin, Starred

“Thorough characterization and artful prose allow readers to intimately experience the highs and lows of these three friends …. Recommended for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.” –SLJ


Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult Fiction WINNER 2017

Morris Award WINNER 2017

Connecticut Nutmeg Children’s Book Award NOMINEE 2019

Green Mountain Book Award NOMINEE 2017

Louisiana Young Reader’s Choice Award NOMINEE 2019

Oklahoma Sequoyah Young Adult Book Award NOMINEE 2018

Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading Book Award NOMINEE 2018

Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award NOMINEE 2018

Amazon Best of the Month SELECTION 2016

Capitol Choices Noteworthy Book for Children’s and Teens SELECTION 2017

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers SELECTION 2017


YALSA Best Books for Young Adults SELECTION 2017

Author Q&A

Besides living in the South, what is it that draws you to writing in this setting?
The South makes a good setting for writing about kids who have to overcome the weight of their history and circumstances. As a place, the South is working to overcome its history. So to set such a story in that kind of environment gives you a setting whose struggles parallel those of the characters. Plus, the South has a ton of atmosphere that’s fodder for descriptive writing.
The South, and Nashville and Forrestville specifically, is a character unto itself. It greatly influences the motivations behind the three main characters in the book. Can you explain what you aimed to capture about rural Southern living in your novel and why?
The rural South has this hazy, sad, rusty beauty that feels nostalgic even when you’re experiencing it. I tried to capture that feeling in The Serpent King because it’s not something you see in a great many YA books.
While Lydia, Travis, and Dill have all grown up in the same town, they come from very different circumstances and have disparate interests. What inspired each of the three characters, and what research did you do to help flesh them out and make them come to life?
Dill was inspired by the musicians from rural parts of Tennessee I encountered in the Murfreesboro music scene. I always tried to imagine what their high school experience was like. I did a lot of research on snake-handling churches to write his background.
Travis was inspired by several guys I’ve seen around Tennessee and North Carolina. Big, beefy, blue-collar-looking guys wearing weird dragon necklaces and cloaks and such. I wanted to tell one of their stories.
Lydia was directly inspired by Rookie magazine founder Tavi Gevinson. To research her, I spent time reading Tavi’s blog and other fashion blogs, as well as following them on Twitter and listening to how they talked.
Was there a particular character whose voice you found it easiest to write in?
I found it very easy to write in Lydia’s voice because her sense of humor is essentially mine. And I found it easy to write in Dill’s voice because his sense of beauty and divinity is essentially mine.
In a book with prominent abuse and bullying motifs, each character approaches and deals with stress differently. Dill’s music is therapeutic for him in a way that even his counselor is not. What drew you to write about abuse and the ways for teenagers to overcome it?
I think dealing with some form of abuse—at the hands or mouths of parents or peers—is a sadly common experience for young people. I certainly dealt with bullying growing up. I wanted to tell a story about teens dealing with some of the worst life has to offer. I hope teens who read The Serpent King will feel a little less alone as a result.
Continued on next page . . .
There are poignant one-liners throughout The Serpent King. Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
“And if you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.” (p. 327)
The Serpent King only exists because I finally learned the truth of that line.
You’ve been a musician and an attorney, and now you make your debut as an author with The Serpent King. What brought you to writing fiction, specifically fiction for young adults?
It was my volunteer work with young adults at Tennessee Teens Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp that made me want to create art for young adults. But I was already too old to professionally make the sort of music they tend to enjoy, so I had to do what I could: write books.
Can you give readers a sneak peek at what’s coming next from you?
I have a new book coming out in spring 2017. It is about a young man coping with grief and guilt in the aftermath of the deaths of his three best friends—deaths he might have caused. It’s not a sequel to The Serpent King, but it does take place in the same fictional universe, as you’ll see from a cameo appearance by one of the characters from The Serpent King.

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