The Serpent King follows the senior year of three friends, Dill, Travis, and Lydia, who are outcasts in their small town. As they prepare for life after high school, Travis and Lydia have some plans for their future, but Dill sees himself stuck in the same rut forever. Furthermore, the changes that are coming sometimes seem more than Dill can bear.
The story is told in chapters that alternate between the perspective--and voice--of the three friends. Back story is filled in gradually and skillfully, and the character voices are distinctive. The plot is interesting, though not always gripping, and the conclusion was satisfying.
I have mixed feelings about this book, though. On one hand, it is a well-written book with a positive message for young adult readers: "and if you're going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things."
On the other hand, The Serpent King was filled with (mostly negative) stereotypes: small towns, the Southern USA, fantasy readers, Pentecostal Christians, Prius drivers. . . I was truly appalled. I nearly quit the book about half-way through, overwhelmed by them all.
Zentner had a great novel, and he nearly ruined it. As it stands, I can only rate it as "okay". I hope he takes his obvious talent and writes his second novel without such stereotypes.