The Marbury Lens

The Marbury Lens

4.1 41
by Andrew Smith

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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

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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.

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This bloody and genuinely upsetting book packs an enormous emotional punch. Smith's characters are very well developed and the ruined alternate universe they travel through is both surreal and believable.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

“Mixing a trauma reckoning with dark, apocalyptic fantasy and notes of psychological horror, this commandeering novel's multiplicity is elusively complex yet never complicated: although the many gut-quivering story elements are not clearly defined, they always speak to each other, and Smith wisely leaves much up to the reader. People will talk about this book and try to figure it out and maybe try to shake it off. But they won't be able to.” —Booklist, STARRED review

“An engrossing horror/fantasy hybrid…Nightmarish imagery is chillingly effective, and the pacing superbly builds suspense.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Andrew Smith's The Marbury Lens will own you, mind, body and soul. You can't put it down, but you'll want to. You'll want to put it down and walk away but that is not happening. The Marbury Lens crawls inside your head and won't leave. Scary, creepy, awful and awesome. What a cool book!” —Michael Grant, author of Gone and Hunger

“Andrew Smith (Ghost Medicine; In the Path of Falling Objects) once again proves his ability to penetrate complex psyches and mature themes within the framework of a spellbinding plot… Smith keeps the tension between Marbury and the present-day worlds as taut as the tightrope Jack walks. As readers, we feel the addictive pull of The Marbury Lens every bit as strongly as the hero does. Just try to put this book down.” —Shelf Awareness

“Teen readers will be riveted by this story which explores alternate worlds and realities while posing important questions about loyalty, revenge, and grief.” —SLJ Teen

“...16-year-old Jonah and his brother, Simon, two years younger, embark on a brutal but mesmerizing road trip that steers an unswerving course toward tragedy. …[O]lder teens will be riveted.” —Kirkus Reviews for In the Path of Falling Objects

“Smith's first novel, a deceptively simple coming-of-age story, defies expectations via its sublime imagery and its elliptical narrative structure. … While the summer climaxes with jarring violence, the possibility of a true departure never materializes: the outside world is held at bay by the inscrutable questions unveiled in the book's conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review for Ghost Medicine

“… Troy wishes to be lost, but his greatest hope is to be found, and Ghost Medicine beautifully captures that paradox in this timeless and tender coming-of-age story. Not only will it inspire readers to prod the boundaries of their own courage, but it will also remind them that life and love are precious and fleeting.” —School Library Journal for Ghost Medicine

Publishers Weekly
In this brutal but highly effective dark fantasy, Smith (In the Path of Falling Objects) tells the story of 16-year-old Jack, who gets drunk at a party and is kidnapped, tortured, and nearly raped by a serial killer. Jack escapes, but when he and his best friend Conner run into the kidnapper the next day, they abduct him in turn and accidentally kill him. Jack is highly traumatized by the experience and refuses to go to police, in part because he and Conner are leaving for England to check out a prep school. When Jack arrives in London, he is accosted by a mysterious stranger who seems to know him and hands him an odd pair of glasses. Looking through them, Jack is transported to the horrendous, postapocalyptic world of Marbury, where he is responsible for two younger boys, and Conner has been transformed into a murderous mutant, further destabilizing Jack's precarious sanity. This bloody and genuinely upsetting book packs an enormous emotional punch. Smith's characters are very well developed and the ruined alternate universe they travel through is both surreal and believable. Ages 14–up. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Janis Flint-Ferguson
This is a very disturbing novel that begins with a kidnapping, sexual abuse and revenge gone wrong. Sixteen year old Jack Whitmore is the victim, but he and his best friend Connor Kirk enact a terrible revenge. The result is a downward spiral into an alternate reality of violence and survival. The boys escape their deed and their California hometown for a trip to London to check out the school in Kent they plan to attend. Jack leaves first and while settling into the hotel near Regent Park he puts on a pair of glasses given to him earlier by a strange man. The glasses take him to Marbury where a horrific war is underway. In Marbury, Jack is responsible for the survival to two other boys, Ben and Griffin. More distressingly, Jack awakens hours and then days later, sick and confused. The glasses soon become an obsession. Even meeting Nikki doesn't stop him from sneaking off to Marbury. She knows that something is not right and later begs Jack to get help, but Jack is only interested in getting back to Marbury. Jack pretends things are fine when Connor arrives, but it is obvious to Connor that his friend is acting strangely. When Connor looks in the glasses, he sees Marbury and even his obsession with Rachel does not keep him from fighting with Jack over the glasses. Intertwined between Marbury and London is the story of Seth, a young man hanged in the 1880's for murder. This is a haunting psychological drama, told in very adult language and descriptions that nonetheless is impossible to put down. Not for the fainthearted or the young, this is an incredibly well written story of emotional demons that is hard to forget. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
VOYA - Mary Ann Darby
Just before he and his best friend, Conner, are leaving California for a summer in London, sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk at a party and ends up stumbling into the arms of a kidnapper who puts him through a hellish experience. Conner is the only person he tells, and when the two of them accidentally kill Jack's kidnapper, Jack is haunted by the experience and cannot shake the nightmare. Landing in London a few days ahead of Conner, Jack is in a pub when a stranger leaves him with a strange pair of glasses—the portals to a world of even darker nightmares, Marbury. Jack finds himself at once attracted and repelled by this other world, where two younger boys depend on him for survival, and Conner seems to be there as well, trying to kill them. Struggling for sanity, he finds himself falling for Nikkie, an English girl he meets in London, but trying to keep track of his two worlds is taking its toll. Why is the pull of Marbury so strong? Graphic and nightmarish, this will find a receptive audience of older teens who are fans of Stephen King's darkest horrors. This is not a novel for those looking for pat endings: the story is suspenseful and deeply disturbing, written with multiple layers that will have readers arguing about what the apocalyptic scenes in Marbury are really all about. Reviewer: Mary Ann Darby
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Andrew Smith's strange story (Feiwel & Friends, 2010) of a boy caught between two worlds and his seeming decent into madness is hauntingly conveyed through Mark Boyett's masterful narration. Jack's abduction by a stranger who drugs him, which leads to the murder of his kidnapper, has repercussions that continue throughout the story. During a summer trip to London, a mysterious pair of purple-tinted glasses takes him to Marbury, a parallel world totally unfamiliar and more violent than his own. There he is responsible for the well being of two boys who become his allies, and Jack must protect them from his best friend in the real world who has become a monster in this alternate world. Boyett's voice not only captures the differences in Jack's various acquaintances (the polished English accent of his new girlfriend, the uneducated voice of the tragic figure Seth) but also Jack's anger at himself for not being able to "get on" with his life. He is engaged in an internal battle that is painful to hear. But just as Jack is addicted to this world of horror, listeners become addicted to the story. Four-letter words are used throughout, but reflect the situations and are not gratuitous. One of the most conflicted heroes in recent books, Jack's story does not end here and listeners will definitely be back for more.—Edith Ching, University of Maryland, College Park
Kirkus Reviews

An engrossing horror/fantasy hybrid, this page-turner will be best appreciated by those with a taste for ambiguous endings. Sixteen-year-old Jack narrowly escapes a kidnapping by a menacing figure who drugs and nearly rapes him. Soon after, he and his best friend, Connor, embark on a planned trip to England, where a strange man gives Jack a set of purple eyeglasses that transport him to an alternate universe called Marbury whenever he wears them. In this post-apocalyptic world of ghosts and monsters, Jack and others struggle against the attacks of roving bands of creatures, once human, who have transformed into grotesque cannibals, and Jack's grip on reality becomes increasingly tenuous. Nightmarish imagery is chillingly effective, and the pacing superbly builds suspense. Connor's unrelenting teasing of Jack (including the oft-repeated suggestion that Jack's virginity means he must be gay) is authentic in its portrayal of the experience of close friendship between some teen boys. However, in the end there are many questions left unanswered—which may well prove frustrating to readers expecting an explanation of Jack's experiences. (Horror/fantasy. 16 & up)

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Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Part One

I am going to build something big for you.

It’s like one of those Russian dolls that you open up, and open up again. And each layer becomes something else.

On the outside is the universe, painted dark purple, decorated with planets and comets, stars. Then you open it, and you see the Earth, and when that comes apart, there’s Marbury, a place that’s kind of like here, except none of the horrible things in Marbury are invisible. They’re painted right there on the surface where you can plainly see them.

The next layer is Henry Hewitt, the man with the glasses, and when you twist him in half, there’s my best friend, Conner Kirk, painted to look like some kind of Hindu god, arms like snakes, shirtless, radiant.

When you open him up, you’ll find Nickie Stromberg, the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen, and maybe the only person in this world, besides Conner, who ever really loved me.

Now it’s getting smaller, and inside is Freddie Horvath. That’s the man who kidnapped me.

Next, there’s the pale form of the boy, Seth, a ghost from Marbury who found me, and helped me. I guess he was looking for me for a long time. And the last thing on the inside is me. John Wynn Whitmore.

They call me Jack.

But then I open up, too, and what you’ll find there is something small and black and shriveled.

The center of the universe.

Fun game, wasn’t it?

I don’t know if the things I see and what I do in Marbury are in the future or from the past. Maybe everything’s really happening at the same time. But I do know that once I started going to Marbury, I couldn’t stop myself. I know it sounds crazy, but Marbury began to feel safer, at least more predictable, than the here and now.

I need to explain.

THE MARBURY LENS Copyright © 2010 by Andrew Smith

Meet the Author

Andrew Smith is the author of Ghost Medicine, named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, and In the Path of Falling Objects. In addition to writing, he teaches high school advanced placement classes and coaches rugby. He lives in Southern California with his family, in a rural location in the mountains.

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