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.
Note: When I first posted this, I had technical difficulties. Now I got the picture and summary up, but I'm leaving my own descriptions because they amuse me. Anyway, look at the cover. How's that for a welcome-to-my-blog-hey-look-a-creeper?
I can't get the cover to come up, so I'll just describe it. It's very creepy. There's a dark-tinted picture of a boy wearing a very odd set of glasses (think: a set of goggles straight out of Leviathan). One lens has a guy reflected in it, and the other has this weird fiery red thing (think: Mad-eye Moody, sort of).
*More technical difficulties*
The summary won't come up either. Basically, it's about a boy named Jack who takes a trip to London with his best friend Conner. On that trip, a stranger gives him a pair of glasses. Through the glasses he can see a world called Marbury, where a war is taking place. Action, mystery, and romance ensue.
First Look: ***** The cover is kind of creepy. Okay, not kind of creepy. It is creepy. Very steampunk-ish. And I've also learned that reading the Goodreads reviews before I start the book is not a good idea.
Setting: ***** Marbury was so vividly described. I felt like I was there, no matter how much the idea of actually going there makes me shudder. Wow, what a place. I love how the author left me wondering about it. The transitions between Marbury and London were done very nicely and smoothly.
Characters: ***** They were awesome. Jack went through a lot of turmoil from beginning to end, physically and mentally, and the way it wore down on him was completely realistic. The way he reacted to the kidnapping was so believable. Conner was an awesome friend, too. They both just seemed so...real. Nickie, on the other hand, drove me nuts. I don't think she added anything to the story besides the fact that she was Jack's love interest. She fell flat for me, and she seemed to think that she could seduce Jack into getting help for himself.
Plot: ***** Um, I'm still trying to figure out what I just read. I loved, loved, loved the way the author never says whether any of it was real or not. Part of the reader wants to think that it really happened, but the other part wonders whether it was just the mental aftereffects of a traumatic experience. This book had lots of twists to it. I loved how Seth's story was woven into Jack's. There were parts that were extremely creepy and scary. I will warn you right now that this is not light reading. The Michael Grant review on the cover doesn't lie (Michael Grant is amazing, by the way. I can't wait until his next book comes out!). That being said, don't let the Goodreads reviews scare you away.
Cliché-ness: ***** I've never read anything like it, and probably never will again.
Writing: ***** The number one reason to love this book is the writing. It's fantastic. The repetition of the lines Freddie Horvath did something to my brain and You haven't gotten away from anything, Jack really added a lot to it. Then the narration would be going along and you'd see the Roll. Tap. Tap. and know exactly what was coming.
Likes: Again, I love how the ending makes the reader wonder whether it was real, or whether it all came from Jack's mind. And besides, I love stories about alternate/parallel dimensions.
Not-so-great: I wish I had a quarter for every time either Jack or Conner (or both at once) dropped an f-bomb. Seriously, can't they think of anything better to say? Also, they were way too okay with underage drinking. About halfway through there's a part (the train part) that would be creepy enough without some of the extra detail. Then when he went on the real train and saw all the same living people...well, that was...um, creepy.
Total Score: ***** There was one point where I was seriously about to stop reading. Not because it was boring, or the writing was bad, or the characters were annoying. No, it was just creepy. But I stuck with it, and I'm glad I did. This is an exciting book that makes you think. The characters are brilliantly real, and hey, a pair of glasses takes you to another dimension. How cool is that? (the concept, I mean. Not the actual act of going to Marbury, because that wouldn't be fun.)