Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bookanista Review: The Marbury Lens, by Andrew Smith--and a Giveaway!

Okay, this might be the hardest Bookanista review I've ever written. I mean, HOW do I describe what makes THE MARBURY LENS, by Andrew Smith, such an incredible, powerful, unique, amazing book? I'm not sure I have the words. But I'm going to try!

So let's start with the cover:

I personally think Feiwel and Friends has some of the best covers in the business (see EYES LIKE STARS, THE KNEEBONE BOY, or SELLING HOPE if you don't believe me) and this is another fabulous example. The stark, bold image with the only color coming from the glasses (which are also coated, so they have a sheen to them) perfectly conveys the tone of the book, and makes you wonder: what the heck is going on? Which pretty much sums up the way you feel the entire time you're reading. Seriously, WHAT is going on????

Here's how the publisher explains it in the official blurb:

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.

So...if you can't tell from the cover or the blurb, this book isn't what you'd call "light fare." The tone, language, and plot are dark and gritty, and there were certain scenes that made me very glad I wasn't reading right before bed. I've described books as haunting before--but I lied. THIS book is haunting. You can't just put it down and put it out of your mind. It stays with you, and I guarantee you, months from now I will still be thinking about it, trying to figure it out.

I don't think I can sum it up any better than the blurb on the cover:

"THE MARBURY LENS crawls inside your head and won't leave. Scary, creepy, awful, and awesome." -Michael Grant, author of GONE and HUNGER

Need more proof that the book is one-of-a-kind? How about this: Andrew told me when I met him that he never planned on publishing MARBURY. It was his editor--the fabulous Liz Szabla--who asked to read it, and when he sent her some pages she insisted he let her publish it (yeah--I know. Amazing, right?) I'm guessing that's why the book is dedicated to her. And I can see why she loved it so much. It may not be an easy book to read, but the writing is powerful and elegant, and the issues it's exploring and the questions it's raising are important.

It's definitely not the type of story I usually read, but I like to read the books of my agent-mates (even though I always feel like I belong in Hacksville when I do--I am grouped with an INSANE amount of talent. I have no idea what I'm doing there...) and a few of my friends raved about it, so I wanted to give it a try. So when I heard Andrew was speaking at a SCIBA event a couple weeks ago I made sure I was there to pick up a signed copy. See:

MAN I need a tan. 
*note to self, get out of the house in daylight occasionally*

And because Andrew is so amazingly awesome (seriously, if you guys aren't following his blog you should be) he snuck me an extra copy from his personal stash, so I could have one to give away to you guys. 

So if you'd like to enter to win, make sure you leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm PST on Saturday November 27th. I'll draw the winner and announce them on November 28th. International entries welcome.


For more incredible book recommendations, here's what the rest of The Bookanista's are up to:

Christine Fonseca is amazed by DESIRES OF THE DEAD
Elana Johnson is in love with PERILOUS
Megan Miranda is captivated by MATCHED
Beth Revis is blown away by DEMONGLASS
Lisa and Laura Roecker share a YA review from an actual YA: a "Guestanista Review" on THE REPLACEMENT
Carolina Valdez Miller is spreading picture book love for CHICKEN BUTT! 
Bethany Wiggins is stunned by STRANGE ANGELS 


  1. I'm not a visual person. So I don't do cover love. Usually.

    This cover is amazing! And after I finish being amazed by it, I'm amazed by the fact that I just was amazed by a cover. lol.

    Sounds awesome.

    I'm definitely in. :)

  2. I've heard a lot about this book and you're making me want to read it. I bet my daughter and her friends would like it too. Thanks for the contest.

  3. Well-timed, Shannon! My copy should be arriving today. The cover is alluring and the premise sounds fantastic. Can't wait!


  4. That cover is absolutely amazing! How do you find all these great books??

    I think Fluffy (aka my kindle) and I might just need some alone time today. :D

  5. Great review Shannon! This book looks amazing!

  6. The first time I heard of this book was on Twitter the other day (from you actually!) and I had no clue it would be THAT good! Wow...gotta read it now. Thanks for the chance to win a signed copy!

  7. I've been jonesing for this book since Carolina VM first mentioned it ... and I pretty much have to have it like a junkie needs smack. Hook me up. NOW!

    I'm kidding of course, but this book really does sound amazing, thanks for sharing your thoughts on it Miss Messenger, and for linking to Andrew's blog.

  8. Whoa! I'm completely intrigued.

    And the word verification is "ishaking". I'm a little weirded out by that.
    Catherine Denton

  9. This book looks so interesting and dark and amazing. I would love a chance. Thank you for the contest.

  10. I almost picked this up at the bookstore yesterday, but I already had 6 others when I saw it and remembered I wanted it. Next time. Next time.

  11. Hi Shannon :)
    I hadn't heard of this book before but it's now on my ToBeRead list.
    All the best,

  12. This sounds like everything that describes. Powerful, scary, creepy. I love any books that are powerful whether they are gritty and scary or not. And the cover is awesome!

  13. I definitely want to read this! It sounds so great :)

  14. That's so nice of Andrew to give you an extra copy for your readers. Thanks for always thinking of us.

  15. I've had this book on my list since I saw in on Goodreads this summer... of course, I've also put myself on a serious book buying ban (can't even enter the book section in stores or else I'll buy!)... so... winning would be amazing! : )
    Thanks for sharing with us.
    ambience.of.rain {at}

  16. It sounds really good. I would love to read it.

  17. This book frightens me...but I REALLY want to read it!


  18. Great post, Shannon. I was unfortunate to have not yet heard of this book. Now I'm glad I did. It sounds fantastic. Very cool!

  19. Wow. What a book! And what a history behind how it got published too!! And yes sunlight is good for you - lots of Vitamin D!!!

    Thanks for the info and for the review!! It sounds like a very dark exciting read! Take care

  20. I would love to win this book!


  21. Ack! Yes, I'm dying to read this book. That's so interesting that he never intended to publish it. Thanks for the story.

    And thanks for an awesome giveaway!

  22. :)
    Definitely putting it on my TBR list, and you can also put me in your drawing. :)

  23. Love Andrew and I've been wanting to get my hands on this book for a long time.

    Thanks for another great giveaway, Shannon!

  24. This one is high on my wish list. I think it sounds totally awesome. I love the heavy duty scary/creepy reads. :-)

  25. I've heard such awesome things about this book. I really need to go get a copy of it. :) Love books that make you think.
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

  26. This was definitely a hard book to review! I don't even know that it's easily categorized in any one genre. It's definitely trippy and sticks with you. I can see why he didn't think he'd publish it originally--to be honest, I don't even know how you'd query it. But the writing is truly phenomenal and your review captures that feeling of "WHOA!" so well. I felt it too.

    And you look amazing. No more talk about daylight. Cuz if that's how you look in darkness, darling, darkness looks good on you.

  27. Ok, this book sounds amazing. I keep hearing how crazy awesome it is. Thanks for the chance to win! seescootread[at]gmail[dot]com

  28. I keep hearing about this book. I met Andrew when his first book, Ghost Medicine, came out and I enjoyed hearing him talk about his road to publication. Hope I win this one!

  29. *waves madly* Ooo, ooo, ooo, I've been wanting to read. Thanks for the chance. :)

  30. I'm in. *crosses fingers while also requesting through public library just in case*

    Thanks for the review!

  31. Cool stuff. This book sounds pretty neat.

  32. Awesomeness! I have this book sitting on my table. I will pick it up next.

  33. ME! I want this book! I totally want this book....sounds AMAZING.

  34. I need to read this book, it sounds amazing.

  35. Wow:D Thanks for the giveaway! Please count me in.


  36. Since I wsaw it for the first time, I have really, really, really wanted to read this book. Soo... I would LOVE to enter :)

  37. This is EXACTLY what I love to read! It's definitely going on the list(and being bumped to the top).

  38. I've been meaning to read this one...
    So right on the cover!
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  39. Well, I've already told you I've been dying to read this, so you know I'm going to enter. :-)

  40. Carol blogged about this one and since I trust her, I added it to my wishlist. Since you love it too, consider me entered :)

  41. The premise of the book is so intriguing. Thanks for the chance to win it.

    smartin_90 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  42. I have so got to read The Marbury Lens, it sounds incredible! Love the cover; it's definitely one of my covers this year. Thanks for the super contest.

    hauntingorchid (at) aol (dot) com

  43. Oh, how awesome of the author to do that. Thanks for offering, yet again, another cool contest.

  44. I'm interested to read this book. We read Smith's other book, Ghost Medicine, as part of one of my MFA classes and his writing is compelling. I hear Marbury is completely different. I like to find authors who stretch themselves and the limits of their genre.

  45. I would LOVE to read this book!
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  46. I've been hearing so much about this book, I can't wait to read it. Same as you, it doesn't seem like the sort of thing I'd usually read... and yet I can't wait.

  47. thank you! I would love to win this :D

    feeyonachan at gmail dot com

  48. Wow! I keep hearing about this book via Twitter and your review makes me want to read it even more -- like NOW! **crosses fingers** in hopes of winning this : )

  49. I've been wanting to read this for a while. Sounds awesome! It's time for a "darker" read :P
    Thanks for sharing!

    entrelibros_blog at

  50. I've been wanting to read this one since the first time I saw the cover. It looks awesome!

    autumn.crochet (at) gmail. com


Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Friendly debate is fine, but always be kind to each other). <3