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The Marbury Lens (#1) by Andrew Smith
Publication date: Nov. 09, 2010
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends - Macmillan
Category: Young Adult - Fantasy/Horror
Source: Gifted from a friend (Thanks!)
Summary: 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. (Adapted goodreads.com)
My thoughts…The good: I read Andrew Smith's most recent book Winger last month and given how much I loved it, I knew I wanted to give his earlier works a shot. I was prepared for them to be different but wow, is Marbury Lens different! It tells the story of Jack, a somewhat shy sixteen year old boy, who gets kidnapped after leaving a party drunk and manages to escape. He's terrorized and scarred by what's happened and only his best friend Conner knows the truth. But Jack has a chance to put it behind him as he and Conner have plans to spend a few weeks in London. When he arrives though, a stranger gives Jack a pair of glasses that allow him to see and be transported to another world called Marbury. It's a war-stricken, dark land filled with all sorts of horrors and Jack is fighting alongside two other boys he considers friends. After one glimpse into Marbury, Jack can't resist the pull to go back and finds himself torn between living in the real world and existing in the other.
This wasn't an easy book for me to get into. Even though it's well-written and the pacing is steady, it's dark. Like graphic, I was afraid I would get nightmares and did I mention there's creepy bugs? That kind of dark. I'll take angels who want want to bring on the apocalypse any day over bugs that eat people. (Just saying.) But whether Jack was fighting a war in Marbury or meeting a pretty girl in London, it became apparent that no matter where he was, he was battling his inner demons all the time. His kidnapper's name is constantly in his thoughts and his fear that the kidnapping has changed him forever permeates his every action. I think that's what drew me to Jack's character most of all. You can't help but feel for him. He didn't deserve this. He's a good kid, loves his best friend Conner and met a girl who really cares for him. Everything should be great in his life but it's not. What happened to him and the events that take place afterward are tragic. I kind of felt like his obsession with Marbury was simultaneously a way for him to avoid and face those fears.
(Some minor) reservations: I was definitely more interested in Jack's "real" life versus Marbury. Maybe it's because I haven't quite figured out what Marbury is? There were times when I questioned how real it was or if it was a figment of his imagination. Like his psyche giving him a way to deal with his tragedy. Entertaining that thought kept it interesting and I'm curious to see what more we'll discover in Passenger, the second book in the series. But for now, I do think his "real" life reeled me in more because I enjoyed Jack's interactions with Conner and the girl he meets in London. (But there is a side story in the Marbury world that I found so incredibly sad.)
Do I recommend?: If you like dark, intense and disturbing novels - this will be right up your alley. I think you definitely have to be in the right mood for it but if you're intrigued at all, I think it's worth checking out from the library.