Okay. I think I am finally in the mind-set to write my thoughts on this book. This book was simple and beautiful. Understated elegance. Spoilers, read ahead at own risk.
“Someday you’ll learn that you’re no better than your own name.”
“Travis has always been taught that the feeling to do good is the Holy Spirit speaking, and when you feel that call, you’d better answer.”
“…You never took up the serpent. So you ask me, between you and your father, who I think Lucifer ensnared? God has given me that answer. I don’t need to guess.”
This book started out sort of slow for me. I wasn’t really sure where Zentner was going with it. I’m glad I stuck it out because this book turned out to be one of my favorite books. It tells us a story about Dillard “Dill” Early Jr. (I think it is junior, gramps passed away so his dad is Sr.? I can’t remember..). His story of finding himself when he feels backed up against the wall, where he feels like there is nowhere for him to go. He is stuck. He has two amazing friends, Travis and Lydia who help him through his journey. As graduation for high school nears he finds himself feeling even more backed into a corner, a never-ending black whole of unhappiness. His gramps was driven insane by grief and his dad was a Signs Pastor who worked with serpents and gets arrested for very inappropriate things on his family computer. Growing up without a dad is hard enough, but knowing why he is in jail and have the whole town turn against you because of it? That has to be really hard.
“I get mad when people say that kind of stuff to kids who have their whole life in front of them. Make them doubt themselves. Your faith is plenty strong to do anything you want to do. You think God wants anything for you but your happiness? No way. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your dad doesn’t have license to crush your spirit just because he’s your dad.”
Struggling with your faith is also really hard to deal with. Especially when your family has it all figured out. This is something I know first hand. For years I struggled with my faith. I didn’t feel worthy of Jesus nor did I feel connected to him. I was lost for a long time without my faith. Dill never lost his faith, he just didn’t see his connection with Jesus in the same light as his mother and father. I live in a small town now, where everyone is at peace with Jesus and faith is everything. Coming to Jesus is very personal and everyone takes this journey their own way. It was refreshing to see Dill take this journey on his own, and have the strength to accept that he was not like his family. That he has his own connection with Jesus and it did not involve snakes.
Dill has two best friends. Travis and Lydia. We get the POV from all three characters and these three make up the main characters. Both bring something different to the friendship with Dill. Travis is the giant teddy bear who is never ashamed of who he is. Never tries to change himself because of what someone else thinks or says. He has an abusive father who hates who he is and constantly compares him to his dead older brother. Even through all this, he still is stead fast in who he is. It’s remarkable to be so comfortable, and confident in yourself. Travis a diehard bookdragon! So I think his character spoke to a lot of us who have read this book because we are all self-named book nerds with a passion for reading. I know we all instantly feel in love with Travis. When Travis left and we went through the ordeal with Dill and Lydia, my heart broke and I couldn’t stop crying. He was such a brilliant character and his loss had a huge impact on Dill. He lost the one person who truly understood his life and never batted an eye at him. Lydia was also essential. (I’m smiling right now thinking about her.) She was the goal orientated, take no prisoners, I’ll eat you alive if you hurt my friends and family girl. Everyone needs a Lydia in their friend zone. Like seriously. She turned Dill’s life around. She basically saved him. He was loyal to Lydia and she knew it. She used that loyalty to save him. I am so glad it worked out the way it did.
This was an all around great book. The story of friendship, family, faith and acceptance. I would recommend this book to everyone. Definitely touched my heart.
I give this book 4/5 stars.