Release date: March 3, 2016
Dill’s father is in jail for an unspeakable crime. Shunned by the neighbours in their small religious Tennessee town, Dill and his mother try to make ends meet. Dill’s only respite from poverty and prejudice are his two friends: Lydia and Travis. Travis is an oddball, finding sanctuary from his violent father in his obsession with an epic fantasy saga. Lydia is fast-talking and fiercely creative, pinning her hopes on her achingly cool fashion blog. Dill fears his heart will break when she escapes to a better life in New York. Dill wants to get through his final year of high school in one piece. But there’s a dark secret at the heart of his family, a serpent poisoning his blood, filling him with despair. Dill must confront this legacy of madness and desperation before it tears him apart.
This book has honestly been the best contemporary I have read in a long time. It’s too beautiful for words, but I will try. The story is about three friends – Dill, Lydia and Travis, who have been friends since Dill’s father was prosecuted for a crime. Dill has had a very religious upbringing, and his parents are so stuck on their faith that they will drag him down to their level. Lydia, a fashion blogger, is an internet sensation and aspires for greater things in NYC. Travis escapes his terrible abuse at home through his fantasy novels. As the story progresses, I genuinely became so attached to the characters that it was heartbreaking to see their sorrows and uplifting to see their little joys. The author did a marvelous job of rendering them in all their facets.
Though it is a multiple perspective, Dill is predominantly the focus of the story, being the grandson of the ‘Serpent King’, a terrible legacy bestowed upon him by his name. He fears anywhere he goes, people will only see his name first, and him second. Lydia and Travis are supportive to him so much, but there is a loneliness only he can get through. When the incident happened and the aftermath, I sobbed so much – like ugly snot-nosed crying, the likes of which I haven’t done since maybe TFIOS. It was a sad story yes, but towards the ending delivers such an inspiring and heartwarming message, of making your own path, and following your dreams. I know it sounds simplistic when I boil it down to two phrases, but this book is a emotional journey you have to experience for yourself. Kudos for great writing, and soulful existentialism.
Received a free galley from Penguin Random House UK Children’s, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.