About the Book

Title: The Marbury Lens (The Marbury Lens #1)
Published: 2010
Series: The Marbury Lens

Cover Story: Big Face
BFF Charm: Uuuummmm, No Offense, But…
Swoonworthy Scale: 5 & -10
Talky Talk: Intensity in Ten Cities
Bonus Factors: Alternate World, London, Ghosts
Relationship Status: I Really Need To Destroy Those Lenses…

Cover Story: Big Face

I actually don’t mind this Big Face, because it’s so creeptastic! And appropriate for the story! However, it did make me think this was going to be Steampunk, and it’s not.  One question, though: What’s with the Edward Cullen lipstick?

The Deal

Honestly you guys. I’ve been trying to write The Deal for this book for half an hour. Any way I try to describe it sounds so incredibly ridiculous and contrived and unbelievable, but here goes:

Jack is kidnapped one night after getting drunk at a party, by a man who chains him to a bed, tortures him, and plans to rape and kill him. But Jack gets away. Only, as the days pass, he feels like a part of him is still stuck back there, in that house.

Jack and his best friend Conner — the only person Jack told about the kidnapping — travel to London to check out a private school. Once there, Jack notices a man following him. The man seems to know him, but Jack’s never met the guy. Then the man leaves behind a pair of glasses, and when Jack puts them on, he sees another world — a stark and dangerous world ravaged by war and a terrible disease — called Marbury. In Marbury, Jack is traveling with two younger boys, and he’s responsible for keeping them alive. Back in London, Jack is having periods where he’s blacked out, and Conner is worried about him. But that’s before Jack sees Conner in Marbury — on the wrong side of the war…

BFF Charm: Uuuuummm, No Offense, But…

BFF Charm that says "denied"

Something is not quite right with Jack, even before his kidnapping. And I have no idea what it is. Don’t get me wrong, he’s likable, and I definitely care about him. I really, really, really want him to be okay, but I’m not sure if I’m trapped in his mind with him, or if he’s just the victim of some really weird shizz. I mean, what with the fact that he only cares about one person in the whole world — Conner — I think he might have some sort of sociopathic tendencies. Plus there’s something disturbing about his inner monologue. But he also has potential, and when he’s in Marbury, looking after Ben and Griffin, I just want to give him a big hug. Still, I’ll cheer for him from a distance.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5 & -10

Jack’s developing relationship with Nickie has some really incredibly sweet and tender moments that feel natural and appropriate for modern YAs, and the sexy times are just very well done. But then there’s the whole awful abduction thing. Plus there’s so much talk from Conner questioning whether Jack is gay, which is done in a way that is probably realistic, but certainly not healthy. Jack and Conner’s relationship is strange and sweet and offensive, and I often wondered if Conner — despite all his sexual escapades — might actually be in love with Jack.

Talky Talk: Intensity in Ten Cities

This book is compelling and horrific. It’s also a clustercuss of a series of awful things — so much so that I found myself feeling that it was impossible for so many bad things to happen to one person, and I kept waiting to find out that Jack was still chained to that bed, and this was all some crazy escapist fantasy — a phenomenon I like to refer to as being Sucker Punched. So yeah, I really hope it doesn’t turn out to be that.

In trying to review The Marbury Lens, I realize how difficult to encapsulate this book is. It’s crazy and harrowing and bizarre, but that’s not to say it’s bad. The language is beautiful, and Smith’s prose sucks you in.   This story got in my head and messed with me a bit.  I wanted to read it.  I didn’t want to know.  Oh, and there’s lots of swears and violence and sex, and it’s all written in a way that kept me turning page after page, even while wondering if I would be able to see it through to its end. There were seemingly obvious allegories: the two young boys could have represented innocence in Jack’s mind, and the crazed way the diseased behaved symbolized both the horrors of his kidnapping, and Conner’s overt sexual nature. But I’m not sure those analogies are where the author is taking this story.

Bonus Factor: Another World

While Marbury is NOT a place you’re likely to find a behooved James McAvoy, (which is a terrible, terrible shame — I’m always on the lookout for a world in which to escape where there is any sort of James McAvoy…) or even one where you’d want to slip off to — just to get away.  But the lure of the other world, waiting behind the lens of those purple glasses… It filled me with anticipation and dread. But mostly anticipation.

Bonus Factor: London

A street in London featuring Big Ben, a red telephone box, and a double-decker bus

ALTHOUGH, despite the lure of Marbury, truth is Jack and Conner WERE VISITING LONDON, AND they had met two really cute and sweet British girls, AND they were probably going to move there, SO I was pretty much like “PUT THE MARBURY LENSES AWAY, JACK!! YOU’RE IN LONDON FOR FUCKSAKES!!!”

Bonus Factor: Ghosts

Little ghost sugar cookies

One of my favorite characters was Seth, and Seth is a ghost.  I know what you’re thinking:  you’re thinking, rape and abduction and an alternate universe AND ghosts?  Come ON!!  But watching Seth’s story unfold throughout the book was one of the things I liked (and dreaded) the most.

Relationship Status: I Really Need To Destroy Those Lenses…

Reading this book was much like looking through the Marbury Lens. I know I’m not going to like what I see, but I can’t seem to stop putting them on. Just one more peek…

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Macmillan. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). The Marbury Lens is available wherever books are sold.

Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.