OMG, I have to discuss this one book, which left me staring at the final page for probably forever, just sitting there, blinking like a moron. I was like, DANG.
And how often does a book make you do that?
So. Yeah. THE MARBURY LENS…hurry up and read it so we can talk about it.
THE MARBURY LENS by Andrew Smith
Goodreads description: Sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped. He escapes, narrowly. The only person he tells is his best friend, Conner. When they arrive in London as planned for summer break, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses. Through the lenses, he sees another world called Marbury.
There is war in Marbury. It is a desolate and murderous place where Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. Conner is there, too. But he’s trying to kill them.
Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with an English girl, and afraid he’s losing his mind.
Conner tells Jack it’s going to be okay.
But it’s not.
Andrew Smith has written his most beautiful and personal novel yet, as he explores the nightmarish outer limits of what trauma can do to our bodies and our minds.
Seriously? THE MARBURY LENS is a MAJOR mind trip from the beginning to the final word. I wasn’t sure if I was in a fantasy world or inside the mind of a crazy person. But that’s what makes this book so freakishly cool. I flew through this, thinking: OMG OMG OMG OMG….
And you know what makes this possible? Brilliant writing. You see, Jack is an unreliable narrator, and what he’s experiencing isn’t exactly normal. And unlike typical works of urban fantasy or magical realism, you can’t assume that the fantasy element actually exists. Jack’s kidnapping not only impacts Jack and the course of the whole story (as Jack discovers and navigates the hidden world of Marbury), but also colors the way that the reader views the story as it unfolds. We can’t be certain that the kidnapping hasn’t caused Jack to snap OR if the kidnapping wasn’t connected to later events in another way. We just don’t know. What makes it even harder to figure out is that the events that occur in Marbury seem to have an impact on Jack in the real world. I’d love to see how a filmmaker interprets THE MARBURY LENS. It felt like every scene could be taken two different ways. Every time Jack asks, Is this real? I found myself thinking, “OMG, I don’t know!” It’s just so trippy.
THE MARBURY LENS is a work of delicious literary genius. The concept alone will have your head spinning—a story within a story within a story, all of them interconnected. The characters are so real, so genuine. I felt so connected to Jack and Conner and Nickie. The prose was dynamic and rich. The dialogue was pure gold. Smith captured the voices of real teens as if he’d merely flipped on a tape recorder and transcribed—never once did his creations break character. And the imagery—stunningly vivid and original. And yeah, gruesome at times. The realistic settings are sharp and well-defined (Smith did an amazing job capturing the essence of England), while Marbury is just…I don’t know, this unbelievable, horrible place where the evils of its world are not hidden like they can be in ours; they are exposed in all their gruesome terror for all to see. THE MARBURY LENS is dark and gritty, a no holds barred sort of book that doesn’t pussyfoot around, making something major into less—it doesn’t, for example, make a kidnapping of a child or murder seem any less horrifying than it is. It pushes the boundaries of YA—sort of paralleling the way older teens will push the boundaries of adolescence.
But, while THE MARBURY LENS is blunt and intense, and yes, dark, it’s not overly graphic—but more importantly, it’s quite profound. Jack’s story is more than just a venture into another world. It’s a journey of friendship and love, hope and healing.
But is Jack’s story(ies) real? I’m not telling. You’ll just have to read and find out.
THE MARBURY LENS is available for preorder and will be released November 9, 2010.
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