Tuesday, June 7, 2016


I had a strange journey with this book. I saw it on Netgalley and the cover did not entice me to read the synopsis, so it instantly slipped off my radar. When I saw a few bloggers tweeting about it I did not contect the title with the cover I had previously viewed, and I thought the book, from the sound of its title, was another kings, queens, royal courts, and assassins YA Fantasy. I am not so fond of those fantasy storylines, so I passed on looking at it again. Then this image showed up in my Twitter feed...
This was the author's take on a bookstagram "currently reading" photo. Heh heh. It spread like wildfire on social media. I was impressed with Zentner's sense of humor, so I went straight to Goodreads to look at his book's summary. 
I was surprised to find it was an issue related Contemporary; which is pretty much the only type of Contemporary I will read. When I saw that the main character was struggling with growing up in in a Pentecostal family, I knew I had to read it because of my own struggles living in an Evangelical household from age six to fourteen. 
After seeing the cover on Goodreads I finally realized I had seen it previously on Netgalley and ran to request it. It sat on my Kindle for quite some time before I decided that I should probably get it read, and at least mini-reviewed on Goodreads and Amazon, during the week it pubbed. This meant switching to text-to-speech as often as I could when not being able to sit down and read.  Shortly after I started reading, my son wandered in asking for a hair trim before he went out, so I switched the book to TTS. Which meant my son was listening, too.
In the beginning the dialogue was ultra cheesy. It was like listening in on hipster kids sipping smoothies in the mall while trying to sound hip; blindly unaware that hipsters wouldn't be hanging out in the mall food court to begin with. Ha ha! After a couple of hard side-eyes towards my Kindle, Sebastian finally asked, "What in the hell are you reading?" We chuckled and moaned over some of the characters' interactions, and by the time I was finished trimming the manchild's flowing locks, I was certain I would be DNFing the book as soon as I fullfilled my three chapter rule. 
I was thoroughly surprised when the story changed gears and began to have some edge and honest dialogue. I was scratching my head because it was like a different author wrote the first 20% of the story; an author who was as unaware as mall food court smoothie-sipping hipsters. My worry with books like this, that do a 360° turn in content, is most readers will ditch it before that point. If this had not been a review book I never would have finished reading it. I may have picked it back up if a few of my blogging friends started telling me to push through the first few chapters, but most readers don't have that input. Where are the editors at this point? Or was it a trick to reel in readers who like cheese ball light Contemporaries and hook them into reading something deeper? 
The rest of the book was inciteful, meaningful, and relatable. The three main characters were solidly different from each other, so there would be, I think, at least one thing every young reader could find to identify with. It was everything an issue related YA should be. It made me laugh and cry, and THINK! The two big plusses for me with this story were: very little romance and the inclusion of a well functioning family unit.

This is where I question, refute, and defend my much loved books from the negative reviews I have seen on Goodreads.
This book had very few but they were doozies. One bad rater's reasoning was the writing was bad. She admittedly DNFed early on, which is an examp!e of what I said I was worried about with this book; readers putting it down before the writing turned around, so I can't fault her on that, but in the comments the only people she repied to were the people who also DNFed it.  They were discussing how they have read this story a million times before, that there was nothing new or remarkable about it. This storyline? Really? I have not read anything like this. I have never even read a Goodreads summary like this story. And if they all DNFed it, how do they know? She completely ignored the two people who said the payoff for sticking with the book was more than worth it.

There was, of course, the usual outraged Christian angry about the way southern religion was portrayed (but you can believe it, I lived it, minus the snakes). Then there was the reader who couldn't "get into" one of the characters because they were acting selfish. First of all, I can never quite figure out what "get into" means in these instances. It is usually linked to a character who is acting out in some way, so I assume it means they can't feel comfortable with them? Or is it they can't relate to them? But no matter what "get into" means have these people heard of growth/change arcs? Especially in YA! Besides, how boring would a story be if all of the characters were perfect? I wouldn't want to read that book.

Have you read The Serpent King?

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