Title: The Marbury Lens
Author: Andrew Smith
ISBN: 9780312613426
Pages: 358 pages
Publisher/Date: Feiwel and Friends (an imprint of Macmillan), c2010.

I guess in the old days, in other places, boys like me usually ended up twisting and kicking in the empty air beneath gallows. It’s no wonder I became a monster, too.
I mean, what would you expect, anyway?
An all the guys I know — all the guys I ever knew — can look at their lives and point to the one defining moment that made them who they were, no question about it. Usually those moments involved things like hitting baseballs, or their dads showing them how to gap spark plugs or bait a hook. Stuff like that.
My defining moment came last summer, when I was sixteen.
That’s when I got kidnapped. (3)

Sixteen year old John “Jack” Whitmore gets really, really drunk at his friend Conner’s party. So drunk, he passes out at a local park bench while trying to walk home. After being kidnapped and narrowly escaping, he refuses to tell anyone and takes revenge at Conner’s urgings. Conner hopes that jetting away on a planned trip to London for summer break will clear Jack’s guilty conscience. Instead, another stranger hands him a strange set of glasses and involves him in a war in another world, called Marbury. Jack thinks he’s going crazy as his trips to Marbury go unnoticed by anyone, including a possible London love interest named Nicole. But when Conner gets involved in the war, will Jack and Conner be able to return to their world? And when there are two worlds with two histories, which one is the real deal?

Andrew Smith’s newest novel packs a punch. You’re barely introduced to Jack and Conner when Jack gets kidnapped. He has a very brief interaction with his kidnapper, but I think it effectively portrays the lasting impact that this incident — and it’s aftermath — had on Jack. Jack’s isolation in London before Conner joins him also contributes to his uncertainty of what is real and what… isn’t. Is he dreaming? Hallucinating? Or just plain drugged up and crazy?

The unpredictability of his trips to Marbury also keeps readers on their toes. The comparison of times is variable, so one Marbury day might last three days in reality, or it might be the other way around. Time doesn’t stop, and he continues to function in both worlds regardless of where his attention is focused. There are also aspects of both his lives that seem to cross over, most notably a ghost named Seth who tries to help Jack as best he can. But then other aspects, like injuries, don’t travel from world to world. If you’re killed in Marbury, you can’t use the lenses to travel there, and the glasses seem to be only a one-way portal, with Jack and Conner traveling back to their “real” world sporadically and traumatically.

This fast paced novel is part post-apocalyptic, part science-fiction, with some nitty-gritty events in both worlds that would probably get some librarians in trouble recommending to younger teens. If you want to read a book that asks more questions then it answers and does a number on your brain, then this is a book for you.

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