Book Review: The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

THE MARBURY LENS by Andrew Smith
Publication Date: November 9th 2010 by Feiwel & Friends
Rating: |

Summary: 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.

Review Summary:

  • A lot different than I expected, but it was a wonderful surprise
  • Gripping, graphic THE MARBURY LENS will toy with your mind
  • Unlike any other book I’ve read, recommended strongly for older teens who need a thrilling read

I can’t quite remember how I stumbled across this one. But I was drawn into the book by its description. It sounded scary, yet fascinating and I knew I had to read it eventually. I borrowed this one from my local library, and I finally got to it as its due date neared. Boy, was I in for a ride.

First of all, the summary does not even begin to come close to the intensity of this novel. Straight from the beginning, I was almost surprised on the strong language, sex, and violence of THE MARBURY LENS. While it’s pretty much common in the shows, films, video games, and music that make up our generation, this kind of “obscenity” never quite makes it to the pages of our books.The writing reminds me of those gory slasher movies, complete with blood spraying everywhere. It was gross, it made me cringe, but I was hooked.

My imagination went absolutely nuts with this one. From Smith’s descriptions, I felt myself transported to Marbury and I can’t ever remember being so creeped out by a book. What’s so great about this book is that it is not only an engaging story, but it affects you psychologically. Like Jack, I constantly questioned reality and his sanity. This book just worked my mind into overdrive. It made me think – to the point that at times I thought I was looking way too into the story, by coming up with weird symbols for what it all “really means”.  Is there a deeper meaning behind THE MARBURY LENS? I think there could be a decent argument for such, but we’d have to ask the author to understand his intentions.

The plot was a little confusing to follow since I did question reality all the time. But if you take the book exactly the way it is, I think that it should be a lot less confusing the more you read on. One of the best things about this book is this strong connection between Jack and his best friend Conner. Their friendship is so strong that I can almost see them as brothers. Their mutual affection and understanding of each other was a highlight of the book. Overall, I was more of a fan of the strong relationships forged between the male characters than the male and female.

I would definitely only recommend this book to older teens who can take a little gore, language, and sex. Jack’s struggle post-kidnapping is emotional, scary, and absolutely thrilling. This book is not for everyone, but for the brave souls that attempt to read it, it is a novel that will truly embed itself in your mind.


  1. Wow, this sounds intense! I don’t like the cover so I never really looked into this book. I’m glad I read your review on it. You’ve given me a lot to think about and consider whether this book is something I’m brave enough to try :)

    1. Haha yup. I wouldn’t have picked it up based on the cover either…. But do let me know if you decide to read it! :)

  2. Great review here. This is probably one of my favorite books, and one of the few I’ve read several times in a row. It really gets to you.

    Also the guy who wrote it is my econ teacher. I was never able to look at him the same way again after reading this. Just thought I’d mention that.

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