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review 2018-04-29 17:12
A surprising gem of a novel
The Serpent King - Jeff Zentner

In his bio, Zentner states that he “wanted to write about young people who struggle to lead lives of dignity and find beauty in a forgotten unglamorous place.” And wow, did he succeed. I fell hard and fast for this story and think it should be on everyone’s radar.

 

The Serpent King unfolds through the POVs of three friends, Lydia, Travis, and Dill, all outcasts in this small town. They are the kinds of people who would do great out of high school and in a bigger city where they could find their tribes. That’s exactly what Lydia is planning. She started a successful fashion blog that is her ticket to NYC and the life she really wants to lead.

 

Travis is a gentle giant who is wrapped up in a Game of Thrones-type fandom, as an escape from the spectre of his dead brother and the abuse he faces at home. And Dill, who is perhaps the most central character, is drowning under his family’s dubious legacy, unable to to find his way to happiness.

 

Dignity is an excellent word to sum up The Serpent King. Zentner deftly avoids any kind of hillbilly or even high school clichés and while Lydia may have a bite to her, this isn’t a trio of snarky teens. I’d never read a story set in precisely this world, and I loved everything about it. From their struggles to find their voices, their individuality, and their happiness, to the pressure cooker that a small town can be, where everyone knows your family’s business, going back generations, and how impossible it can feel to escape that.

 

The Serpent King was a beautiful surprise and I really hope you’ll all pick it up.

 

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review 2017-05-07 23:46
Toni FGMAMTC's Reviews > The Serpent King
The Serpent King - Jeff Zentner

This is a good read for teens, but I enjoyed it as an adult and recommend it for both age groups. It deals with a lot of real life issues—being poor; being one of those kids wrapped up in a fantasy book or series that makes you look weird to the popular crowd; having parents that don't protect you like they should; making decisions for your future; friendships; gun violence; being unpopular; depression; death and more. Even though there are so many great YA books out now, something about this felt unique to me. I believe I may have dropped a tear or two. I definitely felt emotional. The story is about three outcasts, best friends, high school seniors. They are trying to make it though some tough life situations and find their future selves.

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review 2017-05-02 00:12
Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
Goodbye Days - Jeff Zentner

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I thought that this was a very moving book. As soon as I read the summary, I knew that this would be a book that I would need to read. Just imagine sending a text to a friend and then finding out that at the same time you were texting them they die in an automobile accident. Now imagine that that car was carrying not just one of your friends but all 3 of your best friends. Can you even imagine that level of grief and the guilt from knowing that your text may have been the cause of the crash? I don't think I could handle that know much less as a teenager. This was a book that I felt that I needed to read and I am glad that I did.

Carver is the teenager that sent that text. As the book opens, his friends are dead and he is at one of their funerals. His parents are out of the country and haven't been able to make it back to support him. He feels completely alone and responsible for everything that has happened. He does have a bit of support from, Jesmyn, the girlfriend of one of his friends that died in the accident.

This book not only deals with grief and overwhelming guilt but it also asks whether Carver should be held criminally responsible for his decision to text his friend. So while Carver is trying to deal with the death of 3 friends, he is worried that he may have to go to jail because of the accident. It is really not surprising when Carver has a panic attack when you think of how much he is going through. He eventually goes to therapy and I think that it is a really important part of the novel that is handled very well.

Carver and his friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake, called themselves the Sauce Crew. Carver and the family members of his friends get together to remember those that they love in what they call a Goodbye Day. It is a day to also get to know facets of that person that they didn't get to see. Each person shares different parts of themselves with different people and by coming together they can learn a little bit more about who the person was that they lost. These were my favorite parts of the book.

I loved the writing. I thought that Carver's memories of his friends really helped the reader get to know how important their friendship was and how big of a loss it really was for him. The pacing was very well done with some funny or light hearted moments showing up at just the right times. I think that this book really deals with some tough issues and does it remarkably well. This was the kind of book that I really didn't want to put down.

I would highly recommend this book to others. It was very emotional at times and I may have even shed a tear or two. I am very glad that I made the decision to read this book and look forward to reading more from this talented author soon.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Crown Books for Young Readers via Blogging for Books.

Initial Thoughts
Moving story that really made me think about a few things. A really good look at grief and guilt. I may have even shed a tear.

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review 2017-04-23 05:21
Goodbye Days
Goodbye Days - Jeff Zentner

Carver Briggs is a high school student at Nashville Academy for the Arts. He makes up one fourth of the Sauce Crew along with his best friends Blake, Eli and Mars. Carver's talent is writing. The cruel irony is that he just killed his three best friends with a simple text that said "Where are you guys? Text me back." He blames himself but he's not the only one - Mars's father, who is also a judge, is pushing for a criminal investigation into Carver's actions. But Carver's not alone. He has supportive parents and a supportive older sister. He's become close with Eli's girlfriend Jesmyn. And Nana Betsy, Blake's grandma, is on his side. Nana Betsy suggests they spend a day together sharing their memories of Blake and to say a proper goodbye. The other families want Carver to spend a day with them as well, sharing a side of their son they never knew, but he's not sure it's a good idea especially when Mars's father tells him he wants to have a Goodbye Day.

I knew I was going to love this book before I finished the first page. The writing was good and made the pages fly by. I enjoyed getting a glimpse here and there of the Sauce Crew - just regular teenage boys getting together and laughing at stupid stuff and enjoying life and peanut butter and banana milkshakes. I liked the idea of getting together with the families and sharing memories. I think this book is very important in this day and age where most people's cell phones are glued to their hand and their eyes glued to their cell phone. I felt bad for Carver. I felt bad for everyone involved. What a tragedy - one that could have been avoided.

Thank you to LibraryThing and to Crown Books for Young Readers for providing me with a hardcover copy.

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review 2017-03-13 20:12
Goodbye Days
Goodbye Days - Jeff Zentner

This was an emotional read, I felt the guilt that Carver carried with him and had it been me, heck yeah, I would have felt like Carter, I was guilty! As the novel slowly unraveled, I started to see other pieces start to show themselves and I saw another side of this story and I started to wonder, was Carter really guilty? Slamming into a truck, traveling over 70 mph, Mars tried to respond to Carver’s text but he never finished it. Mars and two best buddies were killed, was Carver responsible for their deaths? It’s clear the Carver knew that Mars would be the fastest one to respond to his text and it’s clear that Carver knew that Mars would be the one driving the car but did he know his three best friends would be dead because of that text?

 

There are days that Carver can hardly keep his head on his shoulders, he is emotionally drained as he tries to continue living his own life while the ramifications of what that text had on the world around him is clearly visible. His three best friends are no longer with him, school is no longer the same, his life has been changed dramatically, these boy’s parent’s lives have been changed extremely and Carver wonders how he can ever move on. There are individuals in his life that push him forward, pull him under, confuse the hell out of him, and fill his head with notions. They are coming from all over. Carter has flashbacks, his own set of memoirs with his friends that show me that this band of brothers were close, they were thick and these memories are what Carver needs to help him move forward. I laughed, I wanted to punch a few individuals, and I was proud of a few people who shined. This was a wonderful novel and I was so excited to read it.
I received a free copy of this novel from Read It Forward and Random House Kids as part of the Silent Book Club Sweepstakes - thank you. This review is my opinion.

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