Andrew Smith is pretty much my Cannonball boyfriend. I loved Grasshopper Jungle so, so much. The balance between its absolute insanity and the realness of its characters hooked me quickly and didn’t let me go for the entire story. And Winger? That broke my heart, took it out, and stomped on it…and yet, still left me with a glimmer of hope. I did a little happy dance when I heard it was getting a sequel, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
But reading The Marbury Lens leaves me with a difficult task — reviewing it in a positive way. I’ve been sitting on this review for quite a while and still really don’t know what to say. It had the same, true-to-life teenage characters, brilliant falling-in-love scenes, and a beautiful friendship. It was really well written, and I didn’t really like it.
The story is really tough. As in, it was brutal. It was hard to get through. Our hero (this really isn’t a spoiler) is kidnapped by a pedophile, tortured, drugged, and almost raped in the first 20 pages. And we really aren’t given a chance to come up for air after that.
Jack lives with his grandparents in California, and is about to head to London with his best friend Conner for a few weeks to check out a prestigious prep school they might go to for senior year. He’s looking forward to it, until a man named Freddy attempts the unthinkable. Jack barely escapes, but his wounds — physical, and especially mental — aren’t going anywhere.
When Jack is given a mysterious pair of glasses in a London pub, he realizes he can be transported to another world when he puts them on. And this world, Marbury, is not a very nice world. It is a world of war, disease, and violence.
And here Jack slowly starts to break down. He loses time when he puts the glasses on. He starts to struggle with his sanity. He gets violently ill when he travels between worlds. And when he sees Conner over in Marbury, and its not the Conner that he knows and loves, well, that’s when things really start happening for Jack.
Jack and Conner work together to get Jack back on track, but realize this may be an impossible task. With the support of his lovely new British girlfriend, Jack does his best to stay tethered to reality for the rest of his visit to the UK. But the struggle for Jack only becomes harder.
Once again, I’m blown away by Andrew Smith’s storytelling and his ability to portray young adults that actually seem like real human beings. This story had me tense throughout, and to be honest, it wasn’t a feeling that I really enjoyed. I was very uneasy reading about Jack and Marbury.
There is a sequel, Passenger. And apparently, there is also a re-telling of this story from Conner’s point of view, King of Marbury. I do plan to read both, but I need a break from the bleak, desolate world of Marbury, and Jack’s desperate grip on the last of his sanity.
I still love you, Andrew Smith. I’m not breaking up with you yet.