Thursday, March 10, 2016

Book 15: The Serpent King

"If he could be still enough, all the world's motions would cease. The orbit of the earth. The dance of tides. The march of rivers to the sea. Blood in veins. And all would become nothing but her perfect and temporary thereness. Hold this moment. Keep it. Until the next train whistle in the distance pierces the stillness."

Dates read: January 5-7, 2016

Rating: 10/10

The town I grew up in was just this side of rural by the time I hit high school: they put up the first full stoplight (not just a blinking red or yellow) when I was in eighth grade. Our first McDonald's came that year too, or the year after. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if we'd had the internet in high school. The internet was around when I was in high school, of course (I graduated in 2003). Everyone had an email address, and (more importantly) an AIM screen name. But the internet was dial-up, and unless you had two phone lines at your house, you couldn't be constantly online or no one would be able to make calls. What I mean was if we'd had the internet like today, constant availability and access. I used books and movies to escape the limits of my experience as a high schooler, but if I were in high school today, I have to imagine I'd have been an active blog reader and probably a blogger myself.

Which is why I think I connected so hard with Lydia, one of the three rural Tennessee high school students at the heart of The Serpent King. Lydia reminds me of myself in high school...that feeling that you were destined for something greater than what Belle in Beauty and the Beast referred to as "this provincial life" (Belle's kind of a snob when I think back to that movie). Thinking that you were smarter than the people around you, and that somehow made you better than them. While I had a little bit of a hard time buying that Lydia wouldn't have at least some social interest from her peers solely by virtue of her fashion-blogger access to fancy things, she was such a well-drawn character and her emotional truth resonated enough to make this merely a quibble.

Her two best friends and fellow outcasts: Dill, the son of a Pentecostal minister serving time for possession of child pornography, and Travis, a hulking, gentle soul who immerses himself in a Song of Fire and Ice-esque fantasy series, are trying to navigate their senior year. Senior year of high school is such an emotionally-charged time of life, where you start really thinking about The Future in a real way for the first time. The K-12 schooling that has been your entire life since you can remember is about to be over, and the future can feel both overwhelmingly wide and incredibly narrow at the same time. Everything is tinged with a kind of premature nostalgia because you know it's ending. The Serpent King captures the feeling of senior year with such assuredness and beauty that it took me straight back there mentally...I found myself pondering what senior-year me would think about the life I've ended up with, what I would have been like as a senior if I graduated ten years later, trying to figure out what ever became of people that I haven't even thought about in ages.

This is the best high-school experience novel I've read since The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. Chbosky's novel has become a modern-day classic, and I don't see any reason why The Serpent King shouldn't do the same. Strong characters and a beautifully-told, powerful story. A must-read.

Tell me, blog friends...what did you think your life would be when you were a senior in high school? How differently did it turn out?

**I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review**

Note: Review cross-posted at Cannonball Read

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