Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.
I read recently that Andrew Smith simply doesn’t “write the same thing twice.” After reading The Marbury Lens, and following that up with Ghost Medicine, he couldn’t be more spot-on. The Marbury Lens is a different book than Ghost Medicine in regards to its tone, pace and plot. And that’s a good thing.
But like all Andrew Smith books (or, rather, the Andrew Smith books that I’ve read, which are the two aforementioned), character drives the story. Rich, relevant character development that inspires, nay, compels the reader to recognize and consequently discover ways in which they relate to the character(s). This is, for me, Smith’s greatest strength as a writer. He not only knows how to write/develop the characters in meaningful, profound and unique ways, but he also creates characters that one can glean from, be impassioned by, and find tidbits of themselves in.
In Ghost Medicine, Troy, Tom and Gabe find out what it means to come-of-age in simultaneously the most subtle and harshest of ways. Troy, the lead protagonist, is seventeen. He works alongside Tom as a ranch hand, both employed by Gabe’s father. Throughout the story, the three of them, both individually and as a whole, are faced with obstacles of varying degrees and contexts. In their struggle to fight through it all, they develop as individuals and as friends, in regards to their philosophy, emotional cognizance and mental fortitude. Specifically, as a reader, it is the way in which they react to the obstacle and how they fare on the other end, positively or negatively. This is one of the great values I glean from Smith’s books.
Overall, I really quite enjoyed the book. It is a methodically-paced, coming-of-age, morality tale. The tone is perfect. The use of the landscape within the narrative is quite lovely, and reminded me, at times, of The Return of the Native, one of Thomas Hardy’s bests. Alternatively, the way Smith jumps back in time by use of snippets in Troy’s memory, reminded me of the powerful, yet devastating, Trick is to Keep Breathing, by Janice Galloway.
Check out Nōn’s review of The Marbury Lens!
Also, if you are interested in purchasing any of the books mentioned in this post then click on their names. The link will take you to Indiebound.org where you can pick an awesome independent bookstore to shop from that is in your area! Support brick and mortar bookstores!!
Age Group: 13 and up (Contains some violence)
Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary Fiction
Themes: Family, Friendship, Loss
Publisher: Square Fish (imprint of Macmillan)