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The Marbury Lens

The Marbury Lens - Andrew Smith Courtesy of Smash Attack Reads"I was thinking. What if the world was like one of those Russian nesting dolls? What if we only saw one surface of it, the outside, but there was all kinds of other stuff going on, too? All the time. Underneath. But we just don't see it, even if we're part of it? Even if we're in it? And what if you had a chance to see a different layer, like flipping a channel or something? Would you want to look? Even if what you saw looked like hell? Or worse?"MY THOUGHTSCursing below. Beware.In the beginning of this novel, Jack attends a party at his best friend, Conner’s house. Parents are out of town so mayhem is sure to follow. Jack stumbles, drunk, into Conner’s bedroom, where he is being pleasured by a lady friend. Conner’s such a nice friend that he invites Jack to the private party, but Jack ain’t having it. He finds his way to the street, and eventually wakes up on a park bench. A nice man offers help, and as our parents have dutifully pounded into our brains, Jack should not have talked to this stranger.Jack finds himself in a very serious situation. He’s been kidnapped by one Freddie Horvath, whose idea of a fun time is the stuff of nightmares. Jack narrowly escapes this maniac, only to find himself still stuck in his own personal hell. Jack confides in Conner, who swears to help Jack get revenge. One more tragedy later, and Jack arrives in London, where he will be attending school a la study abroad. Jack is paranoid and cannot seem to keep a firm grip on reality. One night he ends up in a bar and meets Henry Hewitt, who tells Jack a very confusing message and disappears. Henry doesn’t leave Jack empty handed, however. On the table is a pair of glasses, which eventually lead Jack to Marbury. And now the fun begins. Or should I say, the chaos ensues.I refuse to go into details about Marbury. It is a place that you must discover on your own in order to really appreciate the post-apocalyptic, maniacal, twisted, horrific landscape. As Jack visits Marbury time and time again, you see his sanity slowly unravel like a tattered old blanket. It’s surreal and creepy as hell. And as the reader, you are left wondering if your sanity is in tact, as well. Jack has endured trauma, and for those unaware, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is very real. The intensity of the trauma is not what is important. It’s how the person perceives the trauma that is the deciding factor for the mind to say “Hasta La Vista, Baby.” One of the main symptoms of PTSD is reliving the event. Does Jack do this? Yes, in his recurring distressing memories about Freddie among other hallucinations. He’s emotionally numb, feels completely detached from reality, has no interest in life, and has difficulty sleeping. More importantly, after visiting Marbury, he ‘comes to’ with gaps in his memory. I’m talking days, people. And his addiction for Marbury is insatiable.I really enjoyed the friendship Jack and Conner shared, and throughout the book you really felt how much love, dedication and loyalty existed between them. Conner never faltered in his friendship and stood by Jack through his dark times. One thing that did irk me, however, was the ugly homophobic undertones of the book. For one, Conner constantly harassed Jack about his disinterest in girls, when Jack made it pretty clear that he’s heterosexual. I get that some heterosexual men tease their friends about being “gay.” I don’t find it funny but homophobia is one of those ugly issues prevalent in society. Conner seems to go a bit over the top on this topic, however, and it gets to a point where I really wish Jack would’ve either decked him in the face or kissed him, just to get him to shut the fuck up about it. The constant bombardment of homophobia felt a tad distasteful.I got way more than I bargained for when I picked up this book. It is definitely a challenging read, and one I won’t soon forget. This psychological thriller fantasy is a lot to take in, and I really admire Smith for dishing out the ugly parts of life (violence, kidnapping, rape, mental health, etc.). There’s a ton of cursing. The story is dark, gritty, intense, creepy, violent, offensive and might make you a bit ill. The writing is very disjointed, but it only added to the mindfuck of a book that is The Marbury Lens.In the end, the real question is: Has Jack slipped into the deepest, darkest part of his psyche, or Is Marbury really real? We are given various tips along the way, but to be honest, I haven’t a damn clue. I won’t spoil, but to me, the ending made this deranged journey stick with you that much more. All I know is that when I closed the book and left Jack’s world, I had to take a moment to get my bearings and ensure I, too, wasn’t wearing a pair of magical spectacles. To me, that is great writing.Recommended for: Those up for a challenge, as this book will have you questioning reality and will haunt you for some time. NOT for the faint of heart, and parents should read it first and decide their teen’s maturity levelFAVORITE SCENE“Anyway, I think we should activate Plan J as soon as the lights go out tonight.”“Okay,” I said, knowing it was going to be something entirely ridiculous. “What’s Plan J?”Conner smiled wickedly. “About five minutes after we say good night to them and it’s all dark and quiet, I’ll yell at you, ‘Jesus Christ, Jack! It' is totally inappropriate for you to be jerking off right now with these girls in the room!’ And so the girls will, like, feel sorry for the pathetic and horny American virgin I have to sleep with, and they’ll offer to switch bedmates so they can give us both some righteously hot sympathy sex.”Conner started laughing. I knew he wasn’t serious, but I also knew that if I didn’t say something, he’d probably actually try it.“Con, you’re my best friend, and you always will be my best friend, but if you pull anything that’s even close to that, I will punch you in the fucking face without even thinking twice about it.”