I can’t remember the last time I was such a MESS while reading a book.
So, this one was intense? And quite heavy? And a bit depressing? Tears were involved here (A book can actually make me cry! Who could’ve guessed) and I did not ask for these emotions and I would like a refund.
The themes handled here are not light by any means, so if you’re in the mood for a fluffy feel-good read, then run as far away as you can from this one. Or any Jeff Zentner novel in general (I haven’t read THE SERPENT KING, though I should, though I have a general idea of what that book’s about.)
This novel nailed down many points I nit-pick in a genre like this. The biggest aspect I focused on as soon as I finished reading the synopsis and started the book was how the characterization of Carver’s deceased friends would be handled.
There are many many books that fall into the all-too-common mistake of either setting the entire premise around the disappearance/death of a character or opens with imminent danger, both of these techniques which read as incredibly juvenile and inexperienced to me. Examples would be FRANKIE by Shivaun Plozza, which centers around the disappearance of a character we barely knew yet are expected to care about, and – believe it or not – AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir, which opens with the deaths of two characters who ‘haunt’ the MC, both of which are strangers to the reader because, again, the writer expects us to care about a character we knew for approximately 2.5 chapters.
But thankfully, Zentner knows his stuff. Though, chronologically, Carver’s friends do not get any page time, the way the flashbacks integrated were so professionally managed that it felt like they were real. people. And I love this, because, the way I see it, fitting stories of characters who aren’t there into te chronology of the plot line without slacking the pace is HARD. And yet, it was done. Wow.
This cast of characters was among the best I’ve ever read. And to prove this to you, let’s take a look at the cast in list-form. Because I really like lists, you guys.
– Carver: I really didn’t expect to love Carver as much as I did?? But I so very felt for him and his vulnerability and anxiety with everything around him. Did I mention how well the panic attacks were written? Because those panic attacks were SUPERBLY written. Plus, Carver is a writer and bookworm whose writing progress fluctuates with his mood (he’d write straight-up trash to express his conflicting emotions <– relatable).
– Georgia: Carver’s older sister who is very very supportive and understanding and I just reeeally like positive sibling relationships, okay? I love them. And also, I feel it’s worth mentioning that Georgia is a pre-med student. I am a pre-med student. Therefore we are friends. #DontDenyMeThisFact
– Jesmyn: I really liked Jesmyn and her supportiveness and piano-playing and synesthesia (!!) and overall sense of self-value. I very much respected her and her final-result relationship with Carver because it was both unexpected and fitting.
– Dr. Mendez: Okay, I LOVED how therapy was portrayed in positive light. He was both developed and interesting and overall a great addition to the story. I loved his scenes. And what I loved even more was the idea that yes, sometimes you need to ask for help. We all do. And it’s okay. There are people out there to help you, so let them.
Oh, and how could my review be complete without mentioning JZ’s writing? Because it’s very fitting for this kind of story. It’s both flexible and colorful (though some paragraphs bordered a bit on purple-y prose? But I’ll forgive) and quite quotable. As I mentioned before, I’ll definitely be wanting to pick up THE SERPENT KING because, well, I found this author’s style to my liking.
And side note: Look at me liking a contemporary this much! Who even am I anymore. I’m shocked myself. Also I’m emotionally drained.
I’m VERY emotionally drained, in fact. Therefore, kindly allow me to rummage through my TBR and pull out the fluffiest book in existence as a nice change.
Thank you, Penguin Teen, for the
quite heartbreaking AAHHHHH review copy!