Book: The Lens and the Looker
Author: Lory S. Kaufman
Publisher: The Fiction Studio
Release date: March 16, 2011
Source: Finished copy received from publicist for virtual book tour
Series: The Verona Trilogy #1
Summary: (from Goodreads) 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 history.
First impressions: The book starts in the 24th century, which is completely fascinating. I loved the descriptions of the A.I. teachers and nannies. The world was so interesting that I wish we'd spent a bit more time there.
Lasting impressions: The detailed lessons on lensmaking, though at times a little tedious, were mostly fun to read. Where else can I learn how glasses are made while reading a cool story? The mix of real history with the fictional story was enjoyable.
Conflicting impressions: I wasn't able to truly connect with any of the characters, so I wasn't fully invested in the outcome of the plot.
Overall impressions: After a couple of quick chapters in the future, we tumble back in time to 14th century Italy. Twice. The first time is to a controlled "history camp" where students in the future are sent to learn about Earth's past. This is such a cool concept and I really loved the set up. In order to learn about ourselves, we have to study where we came from, right?
Well, these kids aren't getting it. Hansum, Shamira and Lincoln, three teens stuck in camp together, smuggle in a genie who helps them cause all kinds of mischief. They really push the limits of the camp teachers/counselors (called enactors), and when they meet a strange man who wants to teach them real lessons, they wind up following him back through actual time to actual 14th century Italy.
Still with me? While in the past, the kids play with introducing technology before its time and struggle to discover themselves while apprenticing and housekeeping for a lensmaker. There are more than a few detailed descriptions of how lenses were made, which was boring at first, but eventually I came to enjoy. There are lot of opportunities here to learn some neat facts about this time period and how people lived. The setting seemed very real and well researched.
One thing I had a slight issue with was the names. The kids have names from both their time and in the past, and all six names are used regularly throughout the book. In dialogue while in Italy, they're called by their Italian names, but the narrative (told in third person) uses their "real" names. It can get confusing.
This book is a lot of fun and I think would be really appealing to a middle grade crowd. It has tons of historical information with just enough plot to keep things moving. Though I didn't fall in love with any of the characters, I wanted to find out what would happen to them, and my interest kept me reading. At times it seemed like a little magic was missing, and that there just wasn't that spark that normally gets me hooked in to the story. I would recommend this one to the younger set and to fans of history.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Thank you to Lory S. Kaufman and Pump Up Your Book for the opportunity to read this fun book!