The Marbury Lens - Andrew Smith
Why is it that other forms of entertainment have warnings on the labels but books don't? Movies and video games have ratings that state what the rating is there for, whether it be for explicit language, nudity, sexual content, violence, etc. Using that scale, this should be rated R. It should NOT, by any means, be a young adult book. I'm horrified that this was in the children's section, yes children's section in the library. That aside, I'll get to the actual review . . .

Trigger warnings:
-attempted rape
-physical abuse
-mental abuse
-a thousand gay jokes
-some slut-shaming

Let me begin by saying this was one of the most disturbing books I've ever read. Oh, because of the gore and the other world being so cruel, Jack's troubled mind and his obsession with the Marbury lens? Noo. This book was disturbing solely because of its actual content and the way Smith chose to execute his storyline (if it could be considered an actual storyline). If you couldn't tell, this review is going to be overwhelmingly negative. I always feel bad giving one-star ratings and then nearly writing a novella about what I disliked about something that an author spent so much of their life working so hard on, but quite frankly I'm disgusted enough that this book got published at all that I can overlook that nagging feeling in this case.

In the first 28 pages, we've already got a 16-year-old boy getting plastered at a party, walking in on his best friend having sex, getting kidnapped, abused, and nearly raped. This book is 358 pages and it doesn't get any better.

The protagonist, Jack, an unsympathetic douchebag who randomly narrates in third person to annoy the heck out of anybody sorry enough to pick up this book, is probably the most unlikeable character I've ever read. His best friend Connor was even worse. I can't believe a book with so many gay jokes ended up being published. It came out in 2010! Just three years ago, and publishers are letting gay jokes like that slide. It's a mess. Maybe Smith was trying to be "realistic" in portraying 16-year-old boys: hollow things whose only wants in life are beer, sex, and cruel humor. However, there's trying to be realistic, and there's being responsible as a writer. We owe it to our young adult audience to take responsibility for what we're putting in our novels and what we're showing them and what examples we're setting. AND not to mention what practices we're portraying as normal. What Smith has done here is damaging and cruel and it does go beyond the page.

Speaking of trying to be realistic, yeah young boys curse, but is it really necessary to have cusses in every other sentence?

Going beyond those problems, I had had major issues with the book itself and its structure. What was the plot? Where was the resolution? What was the point of Marbury at all? The jacket description had me thrilled, but the novel failed to deliver anything even remotely interesting. Marbury's this wasteland plagued by a war that seemingly had no point or beginning. Jack's thrown into the middle of it and by the book ends, there's no even slight resolution. There's no reason for Marbury, for the war, for the reason he's there, for the reason Connor's there, for the reason there's a lens, it's all just a mess we're expected to believe somehow. What was the point of those monstrous bugs? Where was the world-building? There was maybe a paragraph delving into the subject, but it was abandoned and forgotten. Maybe this is all explained later in the trilogy, but even if it's part of a longer series, a book is still a book, and it needs some sort of beginning, middle, and end.

What I enjoyed most was Seth's story (in particular, the roll, tap tap tap bit being figured out). Unfortunately, it didn't make any sense in the bigger picture. What was the point of him and his story? He was a convenient plot device, but he didn't connect with anything. I kept waiting for something to happen with him, but it didn't. I wanted to throw this story when it was over and nothing got resolved with his story. Maybe I knew nothing else would be settled, but I wanted him to have some sort of ending, at least! I felt so cheated!

Everything was disjointed, nothing made sense, I didn't root for any of the characters, and there was very little I enjoyed.