Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: The Lens and the Looker by Lory S. Kaufman

Book: The Lens and the Looker by Lory S. Kaufman
Series: The Verona Trilogy #1
Pages:  322

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian / Historical 
Buy A Copy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble 
Available Formats: Ebook & Paperback 
Publication Date: March 16th, 2011
How Did I Get This Book: From Publisher, For Review
Preview Book: Read Excerpts  

It’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences (A.I.s) have finally created the perfect post-dystopian society. To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts. Here teens live the way their ancestors did, doing the same dirty jobs and experiencing the same degradations. History Camps teach youths not to repeat the mistakes that almost caused the planet to die. But not everything goes to plan.

In this first of a trilogy, we meet three spoiled teens in the year 2347. Hansum almost 17, is good looking and athletic. Shamira, 15, is sassy, independent and an artistic genius. Lincoln, 14, is the smart-aleck. But you don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to find his insecurities.

These three “hard cases” refuse the valuable lessons History Camps teach. But when they are kidnapped and taken back in time to 1347 Verona, Italy, they only have two choices; adapt to the harsh medieval ways or die. The dangers are many, their enemies are powerful, and safety is a long way away. It’s hardly the ideal environment to fall in love – but that’s exactly what happens. In an attempt to survive, the trio risks introducing technology from the future. It could save them – or it could change histor

In The Lens and The Looker we have a combination of subplots going on that all weave together to form a remarkable story of love, friendship and responsibility. The book’s description states that there are three main characters; seventeen-year-old Hansum, who becomes Romero, fifteen-year-old Shamira (Carmella) and fourteen-year-old Lincoln (Maruccio). However, the storyline focuses more on Hansum than the others. You learn the most of him and he is the easiest to sympathize with. Plus he is the one with the love interest. 

Now, before I get into too much detail about the plot, I want to forewarn you that this isn’t a book purely driven by romance. While there is a romance found within, it doesn’t take center stage. If you go into reading The Lens and The Looker hoping for an over the top, historical teen romance, you are going to be disappointed. Now, again, this wasn’t an issue for me, I truly enjoyed what the book had to offer. But if you are solely seeking a romance, keep looking.

The majority of the book takes place in 14th century Verona, not the 24th century. It’s a time travel book, but the characters do not hop back and forth throughout history. It wasn’t an issue for me, I truly enjoyed reading about Verona. I have honestly never read a book about Italy during that time, or any other place really, well besides Romeo and Juliet. Although that doesn’t really count, it takes place nearly 200 years later.

The magic of this book lies with the wonderful, thoughtful take on 14th Century Verona, and the sort of coming-of-age story of the three teens from the future. Like I stated earlier, I cannot remember ever reading a book that tackled this particular time period before and Kaufman approaches it with such care and gusto. He paints a truly vivid picture of the setting and colorful characters that come with it – He made me want to meet the lens maker, his kooky wife and beautiful daughter. I want to walk the bustling market streets and see the stunning church interiors. However, I could stand without smelling the horse poop and watching the butcher make a living. I much prefer to see the final product all wrapped in plastic at the grocery store. 

The reader is introduced to the time period and all of its quirks in a very unique and effective way. As the three teenagers are first coming to terms with their surroundings, so are the readers. They react in the same way that I would imagine we all would – which makes the experience and story really come to life.

I also found it immensely interesting to see how they struggle to fit into their new life and surroundings. It is exceeding difficult for them because they even have a different way of holding and presenting themselves - they act privileged for the time period. Those they meet certainly find them odd; not only do they speak their minds and boldly look you in the eye, they can read and write.
There  isn’t a great deal of action within the book, the progression is much more character-oriented. While the plot moves at a steady pace, the characters, their feelings and interactions are primarily what keeps you turning the pages. 

I only wish that we could have seen more of the story from Shamria's perspective. I thought she was one of the more interesting characters and unfortunately she sort of rides shotgun to the boys. I think her story would be incredibly interesting - a teenage girl going from the 24th century to the 14th. Think of all the status changes that would involve. You would go from being an independent, free-thinking equal to becoming nothing more than a pretty face who is to be seen and not heard. Although Sharmia isn't treated this way by the lensmaker and his family - I believe that was the general consensus at the time. Well, maybe not. I should really go do some research.  But you get my point, I would have loved to see her story.

Despite a few minor flaws, The Lens and The Looker is both captivating and intelligent. I was swept away with the story, especially with the idea of them rewriting history. I am incredibly eager to see what happens next!

Favorite Quotes
“These mechanistic rascals told their young possessors rude jokes, helped them cheat on school tests, aided in the playing of pranks and, in general,  endorsed and promoted bad behavior. What more could healthy, rebellious kids as for?” 
“Keep your tights on, man!” 
“God knows I’m grateful and God knows I’m hungry”
“A woman is a friend to a man as meat is to a meal.”
“it’s everyone’s world, Romero. But I can also be very beautiful. Father Aaron once told me that life is a dance. A dance where we live with one foot in Heaven and one foot in Hell. We dance back and forth between the two and are given a choice. Life is learning to always dance back into Heaven.”
“They stood in the middle of the road, hands clasped together for the first time, their eyes and lips close. Hansum couldn’t tell if it was the gravity of the moon shining in the sky or that of their young hearts, but he felt them being pulled together.” 
Hansum finally came up from his deep well of delicious drowning and looked into Guilietta’s eyes. He could now see in her that instant familiarity which each person instinctively craves.”

1 comment:

Bibliotropic said...

I've heard a couple of good things about this one. What really attracts me to it is the dystopian element; otherwise, it might be a story that could easily slide under my radar without me ever noticing. I'm going to have to see if I can get a copy at some point, to give it a try and see if I enjoy it as much as others are.

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