I think it’s time for another rec, because I like sticking recommendations down here.  I figure if they distress you, you don’t have to scroll down past the comic, so I’m not harming anyone, right? 

The Marbury Lens, by Andrew Smith.  A dark YA novel, and probably not suitable for any readers younger than 14 – hey, how old are you folks reading this, anyway? I don’t actually have a clue. But if you’re on the younger end – or are sensitive – please skip this one.

 This is a compelling, tense and unique read, balanced between realistic and fantasy and (as I mentioned previously) violent and dark on both sides of that divide (possibly triggering, please be warned).  The main character, seriously messed up from a traumatic kidnapping experience (and just in general), receives a pair of glasses that causes him to mysteriously switch back and forth between a horrific but compelling post-apocalyptic world and the regular world where his fear and self-loathing dominate.  A lot of the excitement of this book comes from the tension of the mystery: is the fantastical world real or a trauma-fuelled black-out? Did he truly escape from his kidnapper after all?  Is he going crazy?

It’s the kind of conceit a lot of authors love, but very few can pull off – Smith maintains a sharpness and feeling of solidity that completely nails it, and instead of going navel-gazey, it’s one of those books you race through in one heart-pounding sprint.

I found the ending a bit of a let-down, though – I was satisfied how it resolved emotionally, but not in terms of hard plot.  To be fair, if it had been a lesser book, I probably would have been content with the ending, it’s just that it was so well-handled my expectations were very high.