Okay. So this is how it all started. One day I saw Marbury up for grabs in a Goodreads contest. I was enthralled with the cover! I knew I just HAD to read that book. I entered. I did not win. Still driven to read this novel, I pre-ordered THE MARBURY LENS from Amazon. I read TML the day it arrived and as I did I felt an instant connection to the characters and the storyline itself.
I feel very strongly about this book, something grabbed on to me, swallowing me whole, sucking me in deeper and deeper into this strange place called MARBURY. I was prisoner but didn't want to escape. That being said, I’m going to do my best and try to justify the book by telling you my thoughts and feelings concerning THE MARBURY LENS.
“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 and 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 attention and is adventurous. Conner does give Jack a hard time because he isn't the same, but he’s always just joking around and would always be there if Jack needed him.
Jack’s birth parents bailed when he was super young. 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 and keeps them bottled up inside. He’s a loner and 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 hurriedly left the room, went outside and after contemplating his options he 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 absolutely plain evil. He does things unimaginable to Jack. After a few days of enduring 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 had probably 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 the 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 they are even after him. Jack tries to relax and enjoy his time away until he is confronted by a man who says he knows him. Freaky right? Well, dude gives him a pair of glasses that when worn take you on a literal trip to hell. Marbury. This is Jack’s hell. At first he is confused and 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 that hunt him and desolation, Jack slips back to reality and learns that some time has gone by. A lot of it. He gets physically sick. However, now Jack is addicted and like any drug this addiction attacks your body making you want more. So, Marbury calls Jack back. Repeatedly.
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 soon enough she can tell that something is amiss. She tries to help him but doesn't want to 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. Then one day he finds out his best friend Conner is there also. Only in MARBURY Conner is not the boy Jack knows and loves, in MARBURY Connor wants to kill Jack. This turns into a battle for Jack both in and out of Marbury. He begins to think 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 conjure 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 its own. Experiencing first hand all of the horrid trials and events that took place in MARBURY and being in his head while he was feeling totally lost and out of control. All of this was just... WOW.
Jack finally 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, throughout every despicable turn of event. And believe me, there are plenty of those. So, 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 on October 2.
I think Andrew Smith has done a brilliant job by writing a novel so intense and so frightening while at the same time bordering 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 Hell. Your own personal hell. We all have one.