Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

The Marbury Lens
358 pages, Hardcover
Published on November 9, 2010
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.
I've already done a review for today, so I guess this one will count for tomorrow. I fully intended to wait a couple of days to review this one, in order to sort out my thoughts on it. But it was so consuming that I can't wait to share my thoughts on it. And one quick note: this book was  extremely violent and graphic. It was also full of very colorful language. Honestly, I'm surprised this book is considered YA. It was filled with heavy material, and I'm not quite sure I know any teens I'd recommend this too. Lastly, this novel was creepy in that not-being-able-to-sleep-soundly-at-night-because-of-it way. So if that description alone sounds unappealing to you, read no farther.
Now, to the actual review. Jack is your average teenage guy, with normal teenage guy problems. Until he goes to his best friend Connor's house for the weekend, gets drunk, and stumbles his way into a stranger's truck. That stranger, Freddie Horvath, proceeds to kidnap Jack, attempt to rape him, physically abuse him. Jack ends up narrowly escaping. However, Jack is no longer your average teenage guy, with normal teenage guy problems. He's haunted by what Freddie did to him, convinced the drugs he gave him screwed up his head.  Jack goes to London and a stranger gives him a pair of purple glasses. Through the glasses Jack sees another world, Marbury, an addictive, violent, desolate place. Things pretty much go to hell after that, and I'm not going to bother summarizing. I'll just say that Jack's head was most definitely screwed up, and I'm still not sure what to think of him. I can't say pitiful is the right word, but I certainly did pity him. Connor, Jack's best friend, was my favorite character, and not just because he was funny and the only light part of the story: mostly I loved him because of his fierce loyalty to Jack, standing by him no matter what happens. Nickie wasn't really all that 3 dimensional, but an okay character at that. The people Jack knows in Marbury, Griffin and Ben, were great additions to the story. Griffin was strong-willed and tough and Ben was stubborn and caring.
I'm not gonna lie: this novel freaked me out. A lot. I had problems sleeping last night because of it. But that's what I loved about The Marbury Lens. Everything about Marbury is violent, cruel, and unforgiving; everything in Jack's mind is violent, cruel, and unforgiving. Smith couldn't have done a better job at pacing the story just right. I was sucked in from page one. The story was fast and edgy, and you can't really tell what's going more than half of the time. The struggle for Jack between reality and his own imagination was amazingly done, written so that the reader is just as confused and distraught as Jack is. And while some reviews say that the violence was overdone, that it wasn't nessescary, I couldn't disagree more. To me, the violence was perfectly portrayed, showing the readers just how very screwed up things have become. There was so much to this story that it would be hard to describe in less than the 358 pages Smith brilliantly used. So I'll just say that I loved every bit of it, even as I was shakily turning the pages. My problem was the ending; I believe this is a stand-alone novel and I'm still waiting for more.
I think I've raved enough in this review, but Smith's writing was what really got me quivering. Jack's mind is filled with musings of what is right and wrong and reality and fiction, and soon mine was too. My only complaint being the switches between past and present tense, along with how Jack refers to himself in third person occasionally. It only confused me a bit, and if Smith was going for a touch of insanity (not really a touch, more like a whole 358 pages worth) then bravo, it certainly felt insane. The entire book hard a dark ominous undertone, like Jack was already giving up when the entire ordeal begins. Just to give you a taste, here's the opening line: "I guess in the old days, in other places, boys like me usually ended up twisting and kicking in the empty air beneath gallows." Everything about the way Smith wrote was delicate and hard at the same time, like a balance between two worlds that might topple at any time, leaving me emotionally drained. It was, in a word, breathtaking.
Overview: The Marbury Lens is the kind of book that makes you want to throw it away while simultaneously leaving you gasping for more. The novel was exactly like Marbury itself; holding a firm grip on its viewer so that you want to get away from it only slightly less than you want to revisit it again and again. It was scary, creepy, gross, and horrific in all the right ways. While it was action-packed and fast-paced and confusing, it was extremely thoughtful and deep, carrying more weight than most other novels can handle. Jack was a normal kid put into an extremely un-normal universe and every step of the way I found myself looking back, trying to backtrack and see how exactly I had gotten where I was. Even the most casual events had importance and Smith knows how to weave a world where nothing makes sense, but somehow it all falls into place. That either scares you or intrigues you. Lord knows it intrigued me, and I absolutely loved this novel.
Cover Rating: 5 stars (I love the simplicity of it)
Character Rating: 4 stars
Plot Rating: 5 stars
Writing Style Rating: 5 stars
Overall Rating: 5 stars


Jessica G. said...

I just wanted to say, thank you for the awards : )

Beth said...

That book seems part creepy and part awesome... I might have to get it!!! :)

Mad Scientist said...

Ok. First and for most. I am so completely and utterly jealous that you got to read this book!

Second of all, even more jealous that I don't even have it.

Third, you are one lucky goose!!

Fourth, something I hope you will be interested in, There is a new project starting in the blog-o-sphere that I want to get involved in, so spreading the word of greatness. I have a post up about Save a Tree, Read an E-Book.

Mad Scientist

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