In The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, Dill is the musically gifted son of a minister. His father made his flock handle poisonous snakes and drink poison, but that is not what got Dill’s dad arrested: it was child porn. Dill’s mom believes in her husband so much that she would do anything he told her, including asking her son to take the fall for her husband and believing that it is Dill’s fault that her husband is in jail. Dill told the truth on the stand, so with his father now in jail, Dill has to help his mom pay the bills. His mom even asks him to drop out of high school to make more money. Dill only has two friends in his small town. Travis, who used to go to their church, has an abusive father, and is so into a fantasy novel series that he carries around a staff; and Lydia who is set to go to New York and become more than the Internet-famous she already is for her fashion blog. The three of them are the misfits of the town, but Dill has had a crush on Lydia for a long time and now that they are starting their senior year of high school he knows that she will go off and leave him and he can’t go anywhere.
This is not the type of book I would normally pick up. I decided to listen to the audio and I found myself staying in my car after I parked, just to hear what was going to happen next. I really loved the character of Travis and was highly upset at the author at one point (you will know it when you read it). This is an emotionally charged book that kept me wanting to read more. It is all about the struggles of being an outcast in high school and dealing with parents who probably shouldn’t be parents. It is about accepting yourself and your friends no matter the weird and never giving into what others think. It is about finding your own path, no matter how hard or impossible it seems.
In The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Natasha is spending her last day in New York trying to find a way to stay. Thanks to her father’s selfish stupidity, her whole family has to go back to Jamaica. Having lived in New York since she was eight, New York has become her home. She can’t remember much of Jamaica and doesn’t want to go back. Daniel is the second son of a Korean-American family and is supposed to go to Yale and become a doctor, but what he really wants is to write poetry. These two teens have very little in common, but their lives collide for one day. There is a saying that a butterfly can flap its wings in New Mexico and cause a hurricane in China: The Butterfly Effect. The people these two teens meet on this one particular day influence so much. So when Daniel, in his mind numbed stupor, sees a girl (Natasha) completely entrapped in the music she listens to, dancing in the middle of the street he ends up changing both their lives as well as many others on their single day together. “What a difference a day makes”(p330). One day and the little moments we all feel are insignificant put together to make a difference in everyone’s lives. Every little thing, big or small, effects the next and makes some type of difference.
I had trouble getting ahold of this book from two separate libraries, but managed to finally get it and make my way through it in a few days’ time. By the end of the book I was smiling at it. The moments of the other random people effecting and influencing their decisions made this book so much more powerful over all. While this book did get a bit lecture-y from time to time with lessons on what things mean, the overall feel of the book works. It is an impressive story that gets the reader thinking about all the choices we can make in our daily lives and how those choices and the choices of others can affect us and everyone else.
After much thought I have to think about which book impacted me more and made me think the most. And while I’m sure that many will not agree with my choice, it is a hard one. I have to choose between two award winning books. The winner is: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner.