The Marbury Lens

The Marbury Lens

by Andrew Smith


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A 16-year-old boy who escapes a kidnapper thinks he can forget his trauma, but instead, he loses his grip on reality and believes he's part of an alternate world called Marbury.

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.

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.

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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312613426
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: 11/09/2010
Series: Marbury Series , #1
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile: HL720L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About 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.

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

Table of Contents


Part One: The Amethyst Hour,
Part Two: The Strange Boys,
Part Three: Blackpool,
Part Four: The Marbury Lens,
Part Five: Seth,

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion:

1. Violence is a major, recurring theme in the book. Jack's story begins with brutality; and the cruelty inflicted on innocents by others resurfaces again and again — in Seth's story, and in what happens to everyone in Marbury. What are Jack's feelings about the brutal nature of his universe? What does Conner think about it?

2. One of the ideas Smith explores in The Marbury Lens is the dynamic found in relationships between males. We see this in the way Jack interacts with Ben and Griffin in Marbury, how he and

Conner get along throughout the book, and even to some extent through Seth's relationship with

Davey and Pa. Compare and contrast Jack, Conner, Ben, Griffin, and Seth. When Jack's in Marbury with the boys, who's in charge? Who's in charge when Jack's with Conner in England or at home in


3. Jack, Seth, and Henry all have one terrible thing in common. What is it? How is this similar/

different between the three of them?

4. Jack keeps coming back to his idea of being at the center of the universe. Discuss the importance of this image as it relates to the entire book.

5. Along with that image mentioned in question 4 (above), Smith once wrote that The Marbury Lens

reveals layer upon layer: There are worlds within worlds, stories inside of stories, the past trapped in the present, and monsters inside of people. How many examples of these layers can you find?

6. In The Marbury Lens, there is enough room for readers to make their own decisions about what is real. What do you think? Is Marbury real? Is Henry real? What clues are you given that Henry really exists?

7. There are many turns in the book that deal with being or feeling trapped, and then escaping. Is

Marbury a trap for Jack, or does he escape something when he goes there?

8. So much of what we learn about Marbury comes only in bits and pieces throughout the story.

Discuss the boys' finding the train, the passengers, the soldiers. What might have happened there?

9. Based on the clues provided in the novel, what explanation could you give for what's going on in


10. Jack endures so many profoundly powerful events through the course of the novel. How does he change by the novel's end? How does Jack mature over the course of his story?

11. Everything in Marbury seems to be without color. There are no stars at night, and the sky never gets completely dark, but contrasts are sharp there. Why all the "colorless" imagery?

12. Discuss the role of setting in the narrative (California, London, Blackpool, and the locations in


13. What do you find out about what happens to the boys after they arrive at the walled city of

Grove in Marbury? How has Ben changed by the end of the book?

14. How would you describe the "voice" of the novel? Is Jack an empathetic character, despite his obvious anger and frustration? Give examples of Jack's tone in his narration.

15. In the beginning, Jack seems uncomfortable and inept at telling lies. He fumbles over explaining his injured ankle to Stella. But the Marbury lens has some major effect on Jack in this regard. Discuss the lies Jack tells later in the book.

16. Discuss the wooden horse Nickie shows Jack and Conner at the airport. Where did it come from? What is its significance? Do you think Seth may have intended it as a message to Jack? How do the boys play off Nickie's finding the horse, and what does it tell you about Conner and how he may have changed?

17. In the beginning of the book, Jack mentions that the things that happen turn him into a monster.

In fact, the only people Jack finds in Marbury that he knows from this world are monsters. Do you think

Jack becomes a monster by the end of the story?

18. In the final lines of the book, Jack makes a decision to do something. What does he do? Is it the act of "a monster"? Is he doing the right thing? Can Jack help himself?

19. AND THE FINAL QUESTION: Would you go there? Even for "just a peek"?

Customer Reviews

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Marbury Lens 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Nikkayme More than 1 year ago
In the past, I've read books, reviewed them, and said they were entirely unique; unlike anything I've ever read before, but The Marbury Lens truly is just that. I'm not even positive what really happened, but I liked it. I know that much. Right off the bat, Jack gets kidnapped, but narrowly escapes. His best friend Conner wants to help him by getting back at Jack's kidnapper, but things escalate from bad to worse. Jack and Conner attempt to carry on like all is well. They head to England as planned; Jack going a few days prior to Conner, and life appears to be okay. That is until Jack meets a man who gives him these glasses that show him another world. A world that is bleak and despairing, full of killing and death. Jack starts to lose himself in between our world and that of Marbury. The line between reality and fiction begins to blur with his every glance through the lens. This is where things get confusing, for both Jack and me. While Smith's writing is superb, with the stunning visuals of Marbury starkly contrasted with the real world of London, I was lost for the majority of the book. Lost in the sense that I knew what was happening, but I had no clue what it was adding up to. But I think that is exactly the point. Jack loses himself more and more and feels like he is going crazy, so that's what the reader is supposed to feel. Jack's traumatic experience grips his psyche, messes with his mind, and seriously creeped me out. The real world and Marbury swirl together to show this nightmarish image of good and evil. It's haunting, it's eerie, it's absolutely terrifying, but I couldn't step away from it. I couldn't guess what was going to happen next and when I did, I was so far off. There's been quite a bit of backlash surrounding this book, in regards to the language used and the character of Conner. See the thing is, the book is about a 16 year old teenage boy. This 16 year old and his best friend, well, they swear. Quite a bit. Then there's this other thing they do, where Conner frequently calls Jack gay. Now, I'm no expert on teen boys, but my younger brothers are 16 and 14 and I know that they swear and I know that they call each other gay. And sure, calling someone gay as a joke isn't the nicest thing, but it happens. So what if Conner calls Jack gay? That doesn't make Andrew Smith or Conner homophobic. It makes the writing and the character more real and I'm cool with that. I like characters who I can actually imagine walking down the street. The Marbury Lens is twisted and sadistic, morbid and dark, but it is powerful and elegant at the same time. Andrew Smith has unleashed a monster with this one and for those of you who love a story that will haunt you, this is the right book to pick up. Not only does it delve into the hellish land of Marbury, but also the brutal landscape of our own minds and our own world. Just keep in mind that it has many dark themes and is for an older YA audience. There's swearing, there's sex, and there are gory scenes of death, but none of it is gratuitous or done for the shock-factor. It's done because it's right, it fits with the plot and the imagery, and the tone - I wouldn't want it any other way. Opening line: I guess in the old days, in other places, boys like me usually ended up twisting and kicking in the empty air beneath gallows. ~ pg. 3 Favorite lines: Henry believed that Marbury was a world out of balance. He needs to take a closer look at this one. ~ pg. 282
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the most interesting books I've read in a long time. I loved reading every single bit of it. It definitely keeps you on your toes throughout the whole thing. Not for the young or faint hearted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Andrew Smith captures teenagers nowadays to a fine point, the plot is riveting from start to finish and you will feel every emotion just as the main character, Jack Whitmore, felt it. You will feel the need to take a peek at " The Marbury Lens " just one more time like a crack addict needs his dirty fix. 5 Star book all around and Best Wishes to to author, Andrew Smith, as well. May his career as an author flourish and prosper and may it never end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is fast paced and very intense. I could'nt put it down the second I picked it up because i was absorbed in the shocking story line that mixes with the scary-ness of reality, then moves into the imaginitive horror-world of Marbury.
AlainaBrown More than 1 year ago
This book was remarkable! I caught myself getting worried and addicted like Jack. I loved the adventure and thrill I experienced while reading this book! The storyline was mind-blowingly good. I can't wait to pick up another book by Andrew Smith. I suggest this book to everyone! Read it; it's full of twists and surprises...never a dull moment or wasted sentence.
Anonymous 6 months ago
The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith is definitely in the tops of the list of my favorite and best books of all time, filled with so much emotion -usually pretty dark and morbid- I had to keep reading to find out what happens next. Jack, the main protagonist, is kidnapped by a crazy serial killer right off the bat of the story, he somehow escapes and tell the incident only to his friend Conner, they find the kidnapper and decide to pay him back, but they go over the top and regret their actions soon after. They end up moving to London where Jack is confronted by this man who claims to know him, he gives Jack a pair glasses, but once Jack puts them on he is teleported into a different dimension, the world of Marbury. Marbury is just full of caustic events and over all the worst and darkest of worlds, a hellish place, as Jack travels between these he feels his grip of reality loosen and his sanity starts to be questionable as he feels himself going crazy. I really enjoyed this book as it gives u a twisted sense of good and evil, character were well build and definitely got into the mind of a 16 year old- this book got a couple of backlash for its hard language and its use of the word “gay” and say things like that in a non-harmful way as an insult- In my opinion that kinda made the book better since a lot of kids are like that, there were so many things happening constantly that it was hard for me to be able to choose where it was enough for me to read, maybe the morbid vibe from it wasn’t that appealing to me. Overall Marbury is definitely a must-read and read-worth book for anybody looking for something deep and not completely happy, would not recommend for a younger audience.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Is this supposed to be a Young Adult title? Because I cannot imagine handing it to any teenager that I know.Did you see the movie Avatar? Well.. that's a starting point for what this book is like. Add in massive amounts of profanity, an attempted rape, dismembered corpses and cannibalism and you'll start to get a bit more of the picture.Jack lives in two worlds. He lives in ours and he lives in a place called Marbury. Marbury is... not pleasant.I'll be honest with you, this book made me sick at times. The premise was fascinating enough to keep me reading but really, this is a messed up book. It may just be because it has more of a horror element to it and I'm not a big fan of horror but, from the cover and description, I was thinking it would be a more sci-fi sort of book.I've had some pretty nasty, graphic dreams too while reading this story. I don't want to say it's a bad book, because it isn't. It's really well done for what it is and I think older teenage boys would really dig the story. Ugh. It's making me want to take a shower though. Read at your own risk!
bookwormygirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh my, this book scared the bejesus out of me! I thought this would be more of a fantasy, sci-fi type of read and instead I was taken into this maniacal, twisted world that gave me nightmares. I am serious! I still think about this book and I read it over a week ago. Jack lives in two worlds - he lives in our world and he also lives in Marbury. Just thinking about Marbury brings me chills. Jack who is kidnapped by a sadistic, murdering rapist - and then the visions of Marbury begin. Marbury with its desert-like facade, demons, flesh-eating beetles and dismembered bodies. Marbury which is almost like an addiction for Jack. When he is in the real world (or is it real?) dreams of Marbury and finding his way back there. There was so much going through my mind when I read this. Where the heck did this Marbury stem from? Was it something like The Matrix, was Jack dead, was he hallucinating or high? This book made me paranoid and it was just a hot mess. But I still found myself riveted to its pages. The premise and its cover were what originally captured my attention but once I actually started reading it - Mr. Smith's writing, Jack and his terrible ordeal, Marbury itself - were just so disturbing that I could not put it down. (I'm a masochist, I know).I have never read anything like this book before. It was truly disturbing - and I say that in a good way! It was unpredictable, action-packed and just plain Awesome!I do have to forewarn though, this is a very dark book and although it is geared for young adults - I'd recommend it for an older crowd (as within its pages you will find profanity (and lots of it), an attempted rape, dismembered corpses and even cannibalism). I'm just saying.
eduscapes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith explores the terrifying experiences of a teen dealing with a horrifying experience. After being drugged and held hostage, Jack becomes increasingly unstable. Jack grapples with his sanity through the help of friends and a set of purple-tinted glasses. This frightening page-turner immerses the reader in complex characters and a thought-provoking plot.Jack's experience in the world of Marbury reminded me of virtual worlds and multi-player gaming. As these worlds become more immersive I can see how easily the line between fantasy and reality could blur.I felt like Jack's experiences were rooted in post-traumatic stress disorder, but I thought the author did a great job expanding the connection to include alternative reality, parallel universes, and the supernatural world. When we lose a sense such as sight, our other senses such as hearing are enhanced. I wonder if this could be true of traumatic situations. When one aspect of our subconscious shuts down because of trauma, could other areas of our brain be activated? This is just one of the many ways this book engaged my mind.Although the conclusion fit well with the story, I was really hoping for a "mind blowing" incident that brought everything together. Instead, the author left the door open for a sequel.Both the book and the reading experience were strange for me. I got about half-way through the novel and got side-tracked with trips and other reading activities. I didn't want to re-start reading until I'd have time to finish. I was amazed how quickly I jumped right back into the plot.On a side-note, this book reminded me of something Stephen King might have written. Characters from one novel like The Stand or Dark Tower series would appear in another novel. I felt like Marbury could have been part of the world of the Dark Tower.
lilibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
16-year-old Jack was kidnapped and almost raped by a serial killer. The drugs the man gave him must have done something to his brain. Jack finds himself traveling between his real life and a horrible place called Marbury where monsters and man eating bugs hunt the few remaining humans.
Jen448 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think this book had a lot of potential, but it didn't live up to my expectations. I liked the concept; a teenage boy who may or may not be losing his mind gets dragged between two strikingly different, yet eerily similar worlds. Jack, the protagonist, is at the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up getting kidnapped by a psychopath doctor. He escapes but is never the same again. Whether the traumatic experiece (or the drugs administered by his kidnapper) unhinge his mind or he is granted a glimpse of an alternate reality is never certain. Aftter finishing this book, I'm left wondering how much of it actually happened, and how much was just in Jack's mind. Maybe he never even got kidnapped, he just went insane and fabricated the entire story. I'll never know because the book didn't have any resolution whatsoever. The book did have some redeeming qualities however. The way the author compared Marbury to our world was thought provoking. Through Jack's eyes, both worlds are equally unpleasant, but at least in Marbury the unpleasantness doesn't beat around the bush. In our world it seems, evil comes in more subtle packages. I also really enjoyed Seth's story, even though it was short. All in all I would reccommend this book to anyone with a strong stomach (there is a lot of gore) who wants to read something interesting and unique. This book definitely is not for someone who wants happy endings and an uplifting plot.
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noah steinberg More than 1 year ago
Not a book i would normally read. Kinda perverted but it is not overly so. Really holds your attention and is hard to put down!
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OnlyAli More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this, though it wasn't one of those books where you couldn't put it down. I liked the plot and I wish that the author would just write another for the heck of it. I would definitely read it.
jeff smith More than 1 year ago
Loved the book read in 1 sitting. But not for young kids way too much bad language