Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Marbury Lens: Review by Diva Schuyler

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.

~Diva Schuyler

Follow Andrew Smith on Twitter: @marburyjack
Like The Marbury Lens Facebook page

I couldn't get the book trailer to download, but you can find it here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Challenge Your Worldview: Bookish Ardour's Dystopia Challenge and Book List

 Challenge Yourself (And Just Maybe Find Love!)

Dystopian Divas' previous post linked you to some great book bloggers with epic lists of current and upcoming young adult dystopian reads. This post hooks you up with some classics in the genre, compiled by awesome blogger Bonnie at Bookish Ardour. Also, Bonnie has an amazing dystopia challenge, of which this blog is taking part! So step into the Arena and read along with your Divas as we pursue the ultimate dystopia challenge EVAR!

Find a classic dystopian read to rock at the coffee shop, making you look all smart and socially aware: Bookish Ardour's "Must Reads: Dystopian Novels"

Tell the hottie you meet at the coffee shop how you're, you know, just casually taking part in a serious literary book challenge for fun: Bookish Ardour's "The Dystopia Challenge"

Comment and tell us if you're taking the challenge--or if you've made your own!

Dystopia Challenge

~Diva Schuyler

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Choose Your Own Dystopia: Young Adult

What will be your next young adult dystopian book adventure? Find out from a couple of amazing sources

Bart's Bookshelf is a great blog with an epic post featuring over 50 young adult dystopian books!
Follow Bart on Twitter: @BartsBooks
Like Bart's Bookshelf on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bartsbookshelf

Prettybooks is another blog to troll for great reads! Here, find not only a list of YA dystopian fiction, but also upcoming titles, listed by month.
Find the dystopia post here: Young Adult Dystopian Novels
Follow Stacey on Twitter: @theprettybooks

Both of these posts are great resources for choosing your next young adult dystopian book. Comment with a title or two that you didn't know about before these posts, and are now excited to read!

~Diva Schuyler

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Dystopia of Our Own: Defining Dystopia by Diva Schuyler

The Literary Definition of Dystopia, & Why The Divas Ditch It  

In reading dystopian stories, it's important to know what, exactly, a dystopia is. We don't want any dys-DOPE-ians around, do we? (Forgive me; Big Brother made me write that. He tells lousy jokes.) So this Diva found an excellent literary definition of dystopia in the introduction to a short story anthology called Brave New Worlds, edited by John Joseph Adams, who described it like this:

The roots of the word dystopia--dys- and -topia--are from the Ancient Greek for "bad" and "place," and so we use the term to describe an unfavorable society in which to live. "Dystopia" is not a synonym for "post-apocalyptic"; it is also not a synonym for a bleak, or darkly imagined future. In a dystopian story, society itself is typically the antagonist; it is society that is actively working against the protagonist's aims and desires. This oppression frequently is enacted by a totalitarian or authoritarian government, resulting in the loss of civil liberties and untenable living conditions, caused by any number of circumstances, such as world overpopulation, laws controlling a person's sexual or reproductive freedom, and living under constant surveillance.

That's a fancy-pants description, but what it boils down to is this: a dystopia is a bad place to live. Forces outside of a person's power control their lives in some way. This is the part of dystopia on which your Divas will focus. So while the literary definition restricts itself mainly to places with oppressive governments, Dystopian Divas will stretch beyond this. We'll explore post-apocalyptic landscapes (some with zombies, some without), gang life, cult compounds, sci-fi environments, and even abusive households. Why? Because these places often have the feel, the taste, and the truth of a dystopian world. They are places where characters must, as in a pure dystopia, fight for survival. Not just for physical life, but for their identities and their humanity. 

Most of us have had to fight for our rights at some point in our lives, or will. We love to read dystopian fiction because it helps us with our own inner battles. Take up the armor of books, then, and we'll journey together toward brave new words.

~Diva Schuyler