21 January 2015

Passenger by Andrew Smith

This is it.

I am the worm. I am the hole.

DUDE. Where does Andrew Smith come up with this?

PASSENGER picks up a few weeks after THE MARBURY LENS left off. Jack and Conner are preparing to leave for London, and since they can't leave Ben and Griffin without a way into Marbury, Jack decides to break the lens in half so they can each get there.

This does not go well.

Jack fucked up.

What follows is a psychotic trip even deeper down the quantum rabbit hole that began with THE MARBURY LENS. The worlds Jack visits are darker(er) than ever. Each time he thinks he's home, he finds he's not really. There is something a little off, something slightly wrong. Andrew Smith made even the most innocuous things absolutely chilling in THE MARBURY LENS, and he's stepped up his A-game here. (More about that after the spoiler alert.)

It's impossible to talk about PASSENGER without revisiting Jack and Conner's relationship. It's gotten even closer than ever, but with Jack and Conner stuck in different worlds, their friendship is truly tested as they try to find their way back to each other.

Then there's Quinn Cahill. We briefly met him in KING OF MARBURY, the short story that took place between THE MARBURY LENS and PASSENGER, and was told from Conner's point of view.

Quinn takes center stage in PASSENGER, befriending Jack in the hellish version of Marbury he finds himself in. He's intriguing, simultaneously pathetic for his loneliness and admirable for his determination to survive. He rubs Jack all the wrong ways, and Andrew Smith manages to create a character that you truly love to loathe.

Like an intricate puzzle, PASSENGER fits in to all the gaps in THE MARBURY LENS, inverting the story and completing the loop. There are still mysteries remaining, sure - plenty is left open to interpretation. Jack's story ends up as a Möbius strip, an astonishing feat. I can't wait to read it all again and see what I missed.

Now that I've finished PASSENGER, I am officially out of unread Andrew Smith books, until THE ALEX CROW comes out in March. My kingdom for an ARC!

I absolutely loved PASSENGER. I suppose that must be a bit tiresome to hear, but there's something in Andrew Smith's work I can't quite define. He's written how deeply personal all his books are, and that's probably why they read so personally to me and his other fans. They come from a place of deep, deep truth.

I want to talk about the ending. Stop reading if you don't want it spoiled.


First off, there was one line that absolutely filled me with dread. It's the kind of thing that shows true mastery, not only of writing but of emotion.

Jack's looking in the closet at his hotel room and examines the bar and says:

I knew it would hold my weight.

Oh my god. My heart just about stopped. And the way Conner reacted after saving Jack just about broke me.

Then there was the way Jack and Conner's friendship developed into something more. It caught me by surprise, but just as Jack said, once you knew it everything that came before made sense. We knew early on that Conner was the only person Jack loved. We just never knew how deep that love went, and how openly and honestly it was reciprocated.

It was beautiful and sweet and probably the most tender ending of any of Andrew Smith's books.