Book Review: The Lens and The Looker

I recently read Lory Kaufman's The Lens and the Looker, which is a YA adventure novel. It's hard to pigeon-hole it into a genre, aside from young adult, because this novel has a little bit of everything: history, sci-fi, tech,'s a very full novel, in terms of themes and concepts.

While I think the main three characters were somewhat glossed over in favor of a larger storyline (which isn't a bad thing, considering this is an adventure novel, I just feel less like I can relate to any of them), I love the references to Shakespeare, the really detailed descriptions of life in 14th century Verona, and integration of lens making (a skill which I knew nothing about until I read this book). As a lover of history and historical costuming, I was super impressed that Kaufman included details like the liripipe (cap) and the way chamber pots were dealt with, etc.

I'm also curious about the futuristic world Kaufman has created, even though we only get a tiny glimpse into it. Luckily for me, he includes a note at the back of the book that he delves more into these theoretical-future concepts on his website. Rather than stick with the usual hopeless dystopian landscape, Kaufman has built up a society in which we live longer, are a smaller population, and genuinely attempt to learn gratitude for our blessings by full immersion into the past. Of course, that weighs heavy with irony and foreboding by the end of the book, if you look at it from a warfare perspective.

I was of two minds about his writing style, though it eventually grew on me. I generally like to be shown, not told, and he does both (including details the character observing would not know, or not have reason to point out), yet there's some subtle veins of subcontext running through the story as well. The overall effect of this is a book that middle readers and young adults would enjoy for the adventure, and older folks would enjoy for the 'what if' factor.

And did I mention that it takes place in 14th century Verona? :)

Stay tuned for my review of the sequel to this novel, The Bronze and the Brimstone, as well as a giveaway for both books!

Find out more about the book and author Lory Kaufman here.

* It should be noted that this is a literal case of 'don't judge a book by its cover'. While the art conveys that this is a YA novel, it's not related to the book as a whole, let alone any of the good parts. And the cover tagline isn't pertinent either. Just ignore the cover altogether! The stuff inside is better, anyway.

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