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.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.
First off let me start by sharing a little about myself. If you know me at all then you probably know this but if not check it out. ..
1. I don’t read reviews or the synopsis of a book before reading it myself. Why? I don’t like spoilers and don’t really want to know what the book is about. I like the surprise of a story.
2. I usually don’t write reviews. Not that I don’t want to, but it is a very difficult thing for me. Having ADD tends to jumble my thoughts so when I try to express what I think or feel it usually comes out a big mess, not making sense at all.
I feel very strongly about this book, something grabbed on to me, swallowing me whole. That being said, I’m going to do my best and try to write a ‘review’ or atleast give my jumbled thoughts on/about the novel.
“Roll. Tap. Tap. Tap.”
Jack is a sixteen year old boy. Normal. As normal as any other teenage boy, I suppose. Conner is Jack’s best friend, has been for years. .. since they were very young. Jack and Conner have a great friendship. They would do anything for each other. Seriously! ANYTHING. Jack is more reserved, quiet and shy. Almost like he’s just hanging back watching everything from the sidelines. Whereas Conner, he is all up in the action. All the time, everywhere. Conner loves the attention and is adventurous. Conner does give Jack a hard time because he isn’t the same, but he’s always just joking around with him and would always be there if Jack needed him.
Jack’s birth parents bailed. Yeah, that sucks and at times I think Jack has a shitty outlook on life because of it. I would. I have. I’ve been there.
Jack was raised by his maternal grandparents, Wynn and Stella. Both love him deeply but this isn’t enough for Jack, he still resents the fact that he was left behind. He hides his feelings, keeps them bottled up inside. He’s a loner, doesn’t let anyone in except for Conner.
School is over for the summer and Jack has planned a trip to London with Conner to check out a private school. This is a good thing and Jack is excited. During a party (end of school? going away? just a party?) at Conner’s house a few days before leaving both boys get extremely drunk. (As do the rest of the guests) Jack stumbles upstairs to Conner’s bedroom to escape and what he finds is not at all what he expected. In the frazzled state of mind Jack was in, he hurredly left the room, went outside and decided to walk home. He didn’t make it home though. Jack woke on a park bench to find Freddie. Freddie is one character that is sick, manipulative, psychotic and basically plain evil. He does things unimaginable to Jack. After a few days of unduring what felt like hell only 1000 times worse, Jack escapes Freddie’s house. Only to see him again when he and Conner have been out shopping one night before their trip. Conner is the only person Jack really trusts completely and is the only person that Jack told about Freddie. So, when they see his car parked hidden in the alley exactly where it probably had been when he abducted Jack, Conner decided to get revenge. A plan to kidnap and set Freddie up to be found by police in his own home with all of the evidence of what he’d done to Jack and others goes all awry. Jack feels guilty and blames himself for all that went wrong.
“You haven’t gotten away with anything.”
Jack finally goes on the trip to London. His emotions are raw, enhanced even. He is paranoid, feeling like everyone out there must know, that they are watching him. Maybe even after him. Jack tries to relax and enjoy his time away until he is confronted by a man who says he knows him. He is given a pair of glasses that when worn take him on a literal trip to hell. Marbury. This is Jack’s hell. At first he is confused, doesn’t know what’s going on. Slowly Jack realizes he knows Marbury and every horrifying thing about it. After each escapade to Marbury; an alternate world full of murder, inhuman warriors hunting him and desolution, Jack slips back to reality and learns that time has gone by. A lot of it. He gets physically sick. However Jack is addicted and like any drug attacks your body making you want more, Marbury calls Jack back. During his stay in London Jack meets a lovely English girl who is everything he’s dreamed of. He doesn’t want to share his secrets with her but she slowly learns that something is amiss. She tries to help him, but doesn’t push too hard. Knowing that would push him away. The more Jack goes to Marbury the more he can’t help himself. The more he wants to be there. Until one day he finds out his best friend Conner is there also. Only in Marbury Conner wants to kill Jack. This turns into a struggle in and out of Marbury for him. He slowly thinks he’s losing his mind, can’t tell the difference between reality and Marbury. He experiences shocking events, things like maybe his worst nightmares and fears might congure up. Taking this ride with Jack from beginning to end was an amazing journey. Watching him learn to trust and fall in love with a wonderful girl was an experience in it’s own. Experiencing first hand all of the horrid trials and events that took place in Marbury, being in his head while he was feeling totally lost and out of control. However, Jack manned up, stood up to the evil and haunting events happening in Marbury. He grew up from a lost and scared boy to a strong-willed young man knowing the best things to do and helping others. I felt compelled to stick with him on this journey, through out every dispicable turn of event. And will I go back for more? You bet your ass I will. I can’t wait for the sequel to The Marbury Lens to release.
I think Andrew Smith has done a brilliant job by writing a novel so intense, so frightening because it borders on reality. Some will shy away from it but in my opinion this story isn’t so off base. It defines everyday life for some people in several ways. Marbury haunts all of our minds who have been traumatized in some form or another. It’s called your own personal hell. We all have one.