The Lens and the Looker, by Lory S. Kaufman

The Lens and the Looker, a book by Lory Kaufman, is about three teens from the 24th century. In the year 2347, humans have finally managed to create a utopian society-but they did it in the wake of some massive disaster that nearly destroyed humanity and the entire world. Enter Hansum, Shamira and Lincoln: three privileged kids who have never known anything but this perfect society. They are from a world where they are coddled by artificial intelligences that have been created with the singular directive to keep the kids safe and happy. These three kids have been spoiled to the point of downright brattiness. So to solve the problem of their unpleasant attitudes, their parents and schools decide to send them to a History Camp, which is a place where “hard cases” like them can go to learn to appreciate all they have by being immersed in the culture of a much earlier time. They’re supposed to learn how people lived in the past so they don’t recreate the mistakes of their forebears. But History Camp has never met these three. They’re not that easy to scare.
That is, until they’re kidnapped by a rogue time traveler and dropped into real medieval Italy…
If you’re thinking that this book sounds like a wild mix of science fiction genres, you would be right. Mr. Kaufman has created a genuinely original world and peopled it with realistic characters. I was fascinated by the A.Is. They were so alive that even though they looked like, oh, a balloon with a crayon face or a long-tailed satyr, they still managed to be round and believable. His description of 12th century Italy was amazing as well, so clear that it felt real. Conversely, I thought the 24th century was pretty sparsely built, but I can see why he did it that way. The kids didn’t really learn how to become alive until they were immersed in the grittiness of history.
The way Mr. Kaufman integrated the children into their Italian family was masterfully done as well. There wasn’t a lot of action in the second part of the book, but it drew me in with the layered interpersonal relationships. That being said, The Lens and the Looker took a while to get around to it (it being drawing me in.) In my opinion the book started a little slowly. About thirty pages were spent teaching the boys exactly how people made eyeglasses in ancient Italy. If you ever wondered how this feat was performed, this is the book for you. I will say the book was educational, which in my opinion is always a plus for YA reads. I recommend this book to people that are interested in history and are okay with reading a few chapters of exposition. Also, this was a super clean book. This is a safe read even for younger teens.
If you are interested in this book, Mr. Kaufman’s website is here:



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