The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
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.
~summary from GoodReads.com
I didn't expect The Marbury Lens to grip me so tightly and to hold on so hard afterward. This book is haunting and haunted: filled with sad, strange, unforgettable scenes, and characters you want to pluck from the horror and wreathe in kindness. It's ostensibly about two worlds, our contemporary one, and Marbury (a fantasy/dystopian landscape of unspeakable terror--and also tender heroics). Marbury is seen and experienced only through glasses a stranger (in a sense) leaves for Jack. Yet there are character and situation crossovers that bring the worlds uncomfortably close, until the reader isn't sure what place is the most real--or the most dangerous.
Smith's writing is raw and immediate, and spares his readers nothing. Where terror is, there the reader is also. Where beauty and altruism blooms, we see and taste it. And as Jack begins his descent into obsession with the life inside Marbury, we experience the same madness. Several times while reading the book, I had to put it down and just breathe. Orient myself back into my own skin. Smith's worlds--the contemporary, Marbury, and also the one inside Jack's mind--are truly that primal and powerful.
The Marbury Lens is a testament to excellence in young adult literature. It's one of the best, and most arresting, books I've read for this age group. As an adult, I appreciated that Smith didn't tame his horrific vision of the life and thoughts of a traumatized teen. The dystopia is deeply personal and psychological. This is a book read with lights on, but eyes wide open. It will change you, scare you, and awe you to your core.
Follow Andrew Smith on Twitter: @marburyjack
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I couldn't get the book trailer to download, but you can find it here.