From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Readers will need to be familiar with The Marbury Lens (Feiwel & Friends, 2010) to fully appreciate Passenger. When Jack and his friend Connor leave to spend their junior year at a boarding school in England, they decide to cleave the Marbury lens in two, leaving one half with their younger friends Ben and Griffin in California. They meant to make things right, not to destroy them. Alas, by shattering the lens, they find that their out-of-control visits to Marbury become blacker, bleaker, and more foul than ever before. The "not-world" of Marbury is clearly related to their everyday hometown, populated by some of the same people, but suffering the aftermath of war and plague. People can be dead in one reality, but alive in another. Friends can become enemies. Violence is the normal state, and skulls and severed body parts serve as decorations and jewelry. Jack narrates, but he often refers to himself in the third person, as if viewing events as an outsider. He likens Marbury to nesting dolls-worlds within worlds-and all of the Marbury levels are gruesome and horrifying. Every so often, Jack surfaces in the "real" world, just long enough to vomit and realize that he needs to go back to Marbury, to try to rescue Ben and Griffin, and find Connor, who is sometimes with the enemy forces, and other times a friend. This book is for readers strong of stomach, willing to walk with Jack and Connor to the edge of sanity. Their willingness to suffer for each other, and to try to see to the safe return of Ben and Griffin, are small rays of hope in a book otherwise as dark as they come.-Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TXα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Things got mighty grim for Jack in The Marbury Lens (2010), but it seems that being abducted by a sexual predator and then sucked through a set of glasses, in and out of the ruined wasteland of Marbury, was just the first circle of hell. Jack decides, along with friends Conner, Ben, and Griffin, to destroy the glasses, but smashing the lens only results in fracturing the boundaries between worlds and shuttling Jack and crew through progressively more tortured realities, where savage creatures hunt down boys and disfigured corpses outpopulate the living. The first book’s emotionally eviscerating gut-punch came mostly from Jack’s tormented wavering between the real world and Marbury. This follow-up becomes almost completely unmoored from reality’s anchor, an experimentally crazy tour through a junk-sick fever dream fueled by Jack’s anguish, guilt, anger, grief, and self-loathing. The drawn-out, hellish trip is told in frantic, convulsive prose that festers around the nauseating horrors Jack witnesses in Marbury and the traumatic psychological wounds he can’t stop prying open. Where it all leads to both surprises and recalibrates what the whole trip has been about. Or not. Smith is hardly afraid to leave things open-ended, unspoken, and all the more memorable for it. With this uncompromising two-book saga, Smith has securely carved out his spot on the darkest fringes of YA lit. Grades 10-12. --Ian Chipman