I need to start with saying that this is probably the most serious piece I have ever written about a book I have read. And it is definitely the most honest. I cried more than I have cried in a while, in regards to a book or real life. I even knew it was coming but that did not stop the tears. Tears in my bed, needing tissue breaks before I read the next heartbreaking moment. This is not a review of The Serpent King; it is just a lot of feelings that the book brought out of me. There are spoilers, so beware. Forgive me if this piece seems a little erratic and messy but I knew I had to write it the second I finished the book, which happened to be at 12:30 am on a Friday. I had to write it for myself, but I hope you enjoy it.
The beautiful thing about books is that we don’t instantly close them when they make us cry. Or we don’t put them down when we have that sense of imminent doom because any reader knows that an author never gives you such immense moments of happiness without having something dreadful waiting in the next chapter. You would think that we would shirk away from sadness or grief in fictional worlds because there is enough sadness in the real world. But we don’t; we keep reading, we keep feeling even when it overwhelms us. The truth is that we want to feel. And maybe feeling it for a fictional character is better than facing the sad and grim realities we see on the news everyday.
The fact that an author can make you care so much about a fictional character still astounds me. I cried when I read The Fault In Our Stars, I cry when I watch basically any Doctor Who episode. I do not particularly enjoy crying but I still can say I love these books and shows. Without feeling emotion, happiness or sadness, our lives really don’t mean anything. So being able to read and experience something that tugs at you in such an immense way is beautiful. I still do not know how authors can kill one of their characters, but I can understand that they want to create feelings and emotions for their readers – maybe for themselves as well. I can definitely say that I felt a lot of things tonight when I was reading The Serpent King. It is currently 12:27 a.m. and there are still tears in my eyes. Mainly because I keep thinking about Travis and the sweet words and the beautiful future his character never got to live. Because it doesn’t matter that he is fictional. It doesn’t matter that he only lives on paper. Because when we read, the characters become real and they become ours. A good author will make them feel that way at least. And Jeff Zentner is a good author. I hate him for making me cry but I love that he created a character that made me care so much that it physically hurt to lose him, even if it was only on the page.
One of the most poignant passages is when Dill and Lydia, Travis’ best friends, are trying to process his death.
“Do you ever wonder how many spring times you have left?” Dill asked, brushing hair from his eyes, “We’re seventeen now, so we get sixty-three more spring times if we’re lucky…I guess the answer is always one more, until it’s zero more. And you never know when the answer will be zero more.”
Sometimes a book hits you so hard that you don’t know what book you will read next, you don’t know how long it will take you to get over this one. Sometimes a book hits you so hard that you stay up an extra 2 hours because you know if you wait until the morning to write about what you’re feeling it won’t feel the same and you might feel silly baring your soul like this. Because I can already feel the trance lifting. The emotions starting to shrink back. My brain reminding my heart that it was a book. But my heart can still feel the weight of the words. And the weight of the characters. I did not expect this when I started reading The Serpent King. That is why I love books. You never truly know what you are getting yourself into because every book is different for every reader. I could recommend this book to a friend and they could come away with a whole different perspective. They could have experienced a whole different emotional rollercoaster. Maybe they wouldn’t cry for as long as I did, or maybe they wouldn’t cry at all, or maybe they would cry even longer. Maybe the part that made me cry the most would make them smile. Or vice versa.
I would like to say thank you to those authors that make us cry because that means they gave us characters and stories that dug deep into our hearts and took hold. And without those kinds of stories, my life would have a little bit less meaning.
I know I didn’t talk much about the actual book, and technically I spoiled the big twist in it but I still recommend it. It is a wonderful, though heartbreaking story of three friends figuring out their world and how they fit into it, taking into account their worst days and their best days. An important story for anyone to read.
It might seem weird that I’m recommending a book after I told you it basically destroyed me but don’t you want to read something that has that much intensity in it?