The Serpent King – Jeff Zentner

Hello there,

Long time no see! Sorry I’ve been away, this might be the first book I’ve read this year that I think warrants a book review and discussion. I’m glad to be back so let’s get started. ūüôā

This book follows three characters, Dill, Lydia, and Travis. The story starts with them entering their last year in high school. Over the course of the story, they have to deal with their own problems at home while trying to figure out their own futures. As someone who is also about their age, I can see how the events they are experiencing may seem frightening. The worries and emotions of the characters are accurate reflections of people my age.

As I read the author bio first, I knew that this was his debut novel. As such, I might have been over critical. I thought the writing seemed a bit heavy on the adjectives and descriptions, especially in the beginning. It seemed like an expository composition I might have written when I was younger. But after the first few chapters, I stopped noticing the writing and started focusing on the story. It ended up being an easy read which I blew through in 2 or 3 days.

Though the book doesn’t really have a typical plot where the main characters are out to find something or are on a journey from point A to B, I was still hooked on the story. I admit this might not appeal to those who are hoping for a more structured story. So, this is ultimately a matter of preference. As far as I understand, the people who didn’t like this book were those who thought it was predictable or¬†pointless. Though I think this might be more of a problem with the subject matter. Regardless, this book made me tear up and laugh out loud, so it gets a good rating from me. ūüôā Now,¬†I shall be moving on to a spoiler-filled discussion of the book, so move away now if you would still like to read the book. Shoo!¬†

Happy reading

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SPOILER DISCUSSION ALERT – PROCEED WITH CAUTION

 

Confession: I have a terrible habit. Before or after I read a book, I will go onto Goodreads, and seek out the 1 and 2 star reviews. The only exceptions are for books I didn’t like, in which case I search for the opposing view. But glowing reviews¬†aren’t nearly as fun as watching people vent their frustrations. As such, this section will comprise my views on certain problems that people had with the book. Here we go!

  1. Lydia and Dill are too immature to be 17 year olds — ¬†To me, their worries about the future, such as moving away from friends and family were relatable. I will concede that at the very beginning, their constant bickering was annoying and rather childish. However, I thought it was a realistic portrayal of the average 17 year old. Not everyone is of the same level of maturity and people who are mature may sometimes still act otherwise. I also wouldn’t expect them to act like grown-ups and settle arguments without any emotion because they’re aren’t grown ups. Though I admit, my opinion here might only be so,¬†due to where I have grown up. For example, a book reviewer¬†mentions that when she was 17 or 18 years old, she was already moving out of her home. Where I come from, people usually only move out of their parents’ home¬†after they’ve gotten married.
  2. Lydia and Dill “insta-crush” — I’m quite confused by this because several reviewers mention that the crush was only revealed in the 170 + page? But I am sure that at the beginning, there were small tidbits like when Lydia reveals that she thinks Dill looks good when they were at an indie clothing shop. Similarly, Dill also very explicitly revels in Lydia’s scent (mind my phrasing) at the beginning of the book. They have also been friends for a very long time so they do care about each other. From a non-physical perspective, Dill was sad that Lydia would be leaving and this was mentioned very early on. So from my point of view, the crush wasn’t instantaneous and without any build-up.
  3. Predictable — Hmmm… maybe. I can’t really agree/disagree on this one. I sure didn’t expect Travis to die. So I thought the story¬†was pretty decent? Conclusion:¬†Depends on how many books you have read
  4. Travis only existed to die — Hmm… I suppose it could seem that way. But don’t characters all serve a purpose? I thought his character was pretty fleshed out.¬†Perhaps because he was not the main character, he might have seemed more neglected as a result. It is a valid point that I had not previously noticed.
  5. Story had no plotline — Surprisingly, I didn’t notice this but it’s true. Regardless, I was hooked to the story. So this point is a matter of personal preference ūüėÄ

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below ūüôā

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The Intern — Gabrielle Tozer

 

Hello there,

Short synopsis: 17 almost 18-year old Josie is smart but socially awkward. She aspires to become a journalist but instead, rather hesitantly, joins an internship programme at the fashion magazine, Sash. Follow her on a journey as she navigates a trying time with family, friends, school and romance.

I wanted to add my own synopsis here because I felt the blurb on the back of the book misleads readers into thinking the book will be everything about the fashion magazine world.

While this book definitely has some elements of the fashion world in it, it is not central to the story. As Josie is more of a writer, we tend to see more of the editorial side of things. On a whole though, the book mainly focused on Josie herself. We see her struggle to juggle family, friends, staying on top of school and  at the same time trying to be outstanding during the internship. It does makes the book much more relatable as her struggle is universal, especially for teens, and can be something resonating.

The book is a fast one, I sped through it in a day and a half. It offers a predictable story that is neatly tied at the end which¬†may be a source of joy for some. It’s the kind of light read where you¬†get to¬†escape from your world for a while. You get to root for the underdog and watch her triumph. In the end, you emerge refreshed and ready to take on your own real-life challenges.

This is not to say that that is the book’s only purpose. There are several issues that were brought up in this book that¬†are very real and very important. That said, the book tries to do too many things with itself and spreads itself too thin. I’m afraid I can’t go into detail what I mean as there are spoilers involved. If you have read the book, or don’t mind spoilers, feel free to check out what I thought in my discussion below.

On the topic of characters, as I have mentioned before, Josie is the main star of the show. As such, we get to see much more of her character than anyone else. This is great but it is regretful that one character in particular stood out to me as rather flat and too perfect. But this shall be forgiven as most of the other characters are decently fleshed out.

Overall, the story did a good job of entertaining me for the duration of the journey. The only let downs were that the fashion world aspect was not explored more and the important issues that could have been included to greater effect.

Happy reading

‚̧


 

SPOILER DISCUSSION ALERT – PROCEED WITH CAUTION

In my review above, I mentioned “rather flat characters”. It may come as no surprise that that character is Josie’s love interest James. Her cousin’s cute roommate that is incredibly sweet, funny and [creepily] understanding of Josie. This bothers me because their romance¬†follows every single romance trope in the book. Embarrassing first encounter, followed by falling head over heels in love, finding out he has someone else, unable to get him out of her mind, he breaks up with his girlfriend, misunderstandings between the destined lovebirds, they end up together and BAM sparks fly, happily-ever-after. It’s a little sad that the romance wasn’t more developed but again with the book trying to cover so many things, I decided to just let it slide.

Speaking of trying to do too many things, can we please talk about that essay Josie¬†wrote at the end of the book? The one about female body image and eating disorders. I see how it might have been building up in the with Ava’s situation and also a little of Josie being a little fashion concious when she first goes to Sash. However, I don’t think that was really enough to warrant the “YES I am going to write this moving personal essay about body image and eating disorders”. It became even more ridiculous when the essay went National and other characters said it was so deeply personal and moving.

1400

?WAAaaAAaAT?

I had no idea where it came from so it was a little anti-climatic when it happened. I felt that Josie was pretty grounded in herself. She knew she was smart, and she didn’t seem all that bothered by her self-image. Thinking back, I guess the comments that I thought were just passing remarks such as “thin models nibbling on carrots” were supposed to be the build up. Had her struggle been more personal and central to the story, the essay she goes on to write¬†would have¬†had so much more meaning. It was a great idea but a flawed¬†execution.

It would have been nice as well if the author included some websites or books relating to eating disorders after the story ends. I’m surprised¬†as it¬†would have made the book more complete and maybe help spread an important message. I suppose as the body image issue wasn’t really central to the story, it doesn’t warrant the need for some extra information. But if that is the case then it really shouldn’t have been included as a plot point in the first place. Okay, I’ve ranted enough. Feel free to share your thoughts, agree or disagree in the comments below!