Sunday, December 25, 2011

Book Review: The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (November 9, 2010)

Book Synopsis: 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.

My Review: Andrew Smith’s unique and creepy novel, “The Marbury Lens,” provides a dark and unsettling journey in contrast to the various romance, supernatural, and dramatic novels that currently make up the YA genre. After protagonist Jack is molested by the twisted “doctor” Freddie Horvath, Jack faces a series of mystical events as his mental state gradually declines. While travelling abroad in London with his best friend Conner, Jack is befriended by a man wearing a long overcoat, who gives him a pair of mystical looking glasses; the “Marbury Lens.” Upon looking into the glasses, Jack finds himself indulged in a brutal hell-like world where the only conflict that exists is an everlasting battle between good and evil. As Jack visits this dimensional world, otherwise known as “Marbury,” more frequently, he soon becomes infatuated with Marbury to the point where he cannot converse with others without thoughts of the glasses and the power they hold over him flooding his mind. Jack’s constant need to return to Marbury soon resembles an addiction, including the brutal symptoms of withdrawlal.

The concept of Marbury presents an intriguing yet simple fantasy world that kept me wanting to know what happens next for Jack and his Marbury friends, Griffin and Ben. However, I felt as if Smith did not develop deep enough relationships between any of the characters, which left me waiting for more to be exposed about Jack and his acquaintances.

The major problem I had with Jack’s story was that it contained no closure whatsoever. The closing scene of the novel illustrates Jack and Collin as they meet the human world equivalents of their friends from Marbury. The reader is not informed of the status of Jack’s friends in Marbury and whether they have finally found peace or not. Whether Jack is still captive in Freddie Horvath’s home, completely imagining his journey through the Marbury lens, is left to the reader’s interpretation.

Various hype regarding "The Marbury Lens" exploits the presence of much cursing and sexual encounters within Jack's visit in London. This, I do not understand. As a teenager myself, I found no oddities in Conner frequently calling Jack "gay," throwing the F-bomb around, and desiring to have sexual relationships with females. Yes, using "Gay" as an insult can be considered offensive, but it is an insult that many teens use, which cannot be denied. Cursing and sex are also naturally expected from the teenage mind.

Overall, I enjoyed the concept of "The Marbury Lens;" however, it was poorly executed due to a lack of plot direction and closure, in addition to weak character relationships.

Rating: Liked it; could have been executed better with deeper character relationships and closure.

Excerpt: “I don’t know if the things I see and what I do in Marbury are in the future or from the past. Maybe everything’s really happening at the same time. But I do know that once I started going to Marbury, I couldn’t stop myself. I know it sounds crazy, but Marbury began to feel safer, at least more predictable, than the here and now.”

Book Source: Gift.

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