A look at THE MARBURY LENS by Andrew Smith

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.

I am not going to lie. This is a dark, dark book. The character goes through some pretty intense stuff, and getting kidnapped is kind of the least of it. There's violence, language and a lot of self-loathing on the part of the protagonist. 

This is not a book for everyone. I had to put it down several times and go read something else for a while. But I finished it. Because while it's a dark book, it is also a well-written and powerful story about what happens to a person when they go through something horrific.

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.
~ excerpt from The Marbury Lens

When Jack discovers Marbury, he can't stop going there, because in Marbury, the horrible, evil things in life are obvious. They're fightable. And while it's been a long, long time since I've been that traumatized, I do relate to the feeling. Sometimes I think that's why I love fantasy so much, becuase in fantasy the evil is visible; you can defeat it.

In the end, Jack does face his trauma. He moves forward, and I believe that is is that sense of moving forward, of progress, that defines a lot of darker YA. While stuff like this isn't for everyone, the teenagers who do need it, need it badly (as evidenced by the #yasaves hashtag).

What do you think? Do you think there's a place for dark YA like this?

(Want to win this book? Go here to enter my Thank-You Contest of Amazingness!)

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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.