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Monday, June 6, 2011

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

Release Date: March 16th, 2011
Publisher: The Fiction Studio 
Page Count: 336
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author, via Pump Up Your Book Promotions, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you both!)

There's hope for the future, but what about the past?

It's the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences, (A.I.s) have finally created the perfect 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 experiences 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 has 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 for Hansum, 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 history.
What Stephanie Thought: Though this book isn't particularly lousy, my biggest problem is how half-assed it is. Is it a sci-fi? A young adult fiction? A romance? A historical novel? A middle-grade book? A contemporized classic? Well, it's a little bit of all of the above, which makes it sound really, really cool. That's what I thought at first. But seems to be, when you mix everything up together, you don't result in a beautiful wonderful charming story. No. What you get, is a big, tricky mess.

Kaufman had such a rolling idea with this story. The dystopian young adult thriller—with time travel! What's not to like?

Here's what's not to like: the addition of a cumbersome romance, which I'm sure most young adults don't care for; that could ruin a few things. An awkward, difficult-to-follow writing style (the kind that names the main character Hansum since he IS handsome... HAHAHAH!!); that might do it. An embarrassingly childish tone to the narrator; that will do it. I kept telling myself this is young—nitty gritty, hits-so-close-to-home young adult. But an immature cast of characters and the author's way of narrating as if he were talking to a ten-year-old, completely disrupts the expected tone.

And then there are the contradictions. The Lens and the Looker is based loosely off of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Even if you haven't read the Elizabethan play, you know the story is basically of two people who fall in forbidden love, and end up killing themselves for it by the end. Sort of crappy? Well, that's why it's called a tragic romance. For a younger audience's novel to contain the heaviness of tragedy and love, pleases me some. I like how this book is sort of a modern version of the classic play. However, paired with the adolescent voice of the story, it just doesn't work. Either this is a children's story, or it's an adult story. Adding elements from both won't equate the book into the median and make it magically become "young adult". 

Like I said, Kaufman's ideas really could have gotten somewhere. The concept of History Camps is fascinating, but he really should have stopped there. The Lens and the Looker needs to make up its mind about what type of book it is. Overall, it's a so-so read (if you can get past the author's lack of creative flow), but it certainly isn't something I am able to recommend to kids, teenagers, or adults, mostly because I don't know who it's aimed for in the first place.

Radical Rating: 5 hearts: Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book. ♥♥♥♥♥