And I’m still making my way through the early books written by my Cannonball boyfriend, Andrew Smith. So far, I’ve loved Grasshopper Jungle, The Alex Crow, and Winger. And while I didn’t 100% love The Marbury Lens, I was intrigued enough by its unique darkness to pick up its sequel, Passenger.
Passenger is just about the darkest, most psychologically frightening, YA book I’ve ever come across. And I mean that in both a good way and a bad way. This was tough reading, folks. But it was worthwhile.
A quick overview of The Marbury Lens: Jack suffers a major trauma (he is kidnapped by a sexual predator) and after his escape, is given a weird pair of glasses by a total stranger. He finds that the glasses bring him to another world called Marbury. Marbury is not a nice place, but Jack can’t stay away from it. He sees people he knows over in that other world, and works desperately to save them from the horrors of Marbury — war, disease, mutants, you name it. Jack is never really sure if Marbury is real, or in his messed up mind, until his best friend Connor comes to Marbury with him. Marbury makes them sick — physically, emotionally, mentally — but they keep on going back.
The version (or versions, I guess) of Marbury that we see in Passenger are even worse. Children killing in order to survive. Monstrous creatures that can change you into a mutant cannibal in seconds. Huge, flesh eating bugs. Ugh. So much unpleasantness that turns these regular kids from California into different, harder versions of themselves.
But what works for me is Andrew Smith’s writing. He deftly mixes all of this horror with a beautiful friendship, one worth traveling through all of these horrible worlds for. Jack and Connor travel from world to world to find and save each other. Smith touches on mental illness, suicide, and sexuality, but doesn’t let any of these important topics take control of the story. They are just part of the story, and he is so skilled at writing teenage characters, that these issues just weave into the narrative.
These two books aren’t especially pleasant experiences, but I’m so glad I read them. My Cannonball boyfriend is the best.