Maureen Johnson – The Madness Underneath
Read my review of book:
1. The Name of the Star
Length: 290 pages
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Started/Finished: 27 April 2013 (readathon!)
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I had a blast with The Name of the Star and was hoping for more of the same.
Dealing with trauma
is tough, but more so when it’s
been caused by a ghost.
Summary: After her near-fatal run-in with a knife-wielding (and very pissed off) ghost, Rory Deveaux has taken some time off from the prestigious London boarding school to recuperate. She’s seeing a therapist, but she can’t ever say what’s really on her mind: not only was she attacked by a ghost, but since the attack, she seems to have become a human terminus – able to end a ghost’s existence with a mere touch. When her therapist suggests she return to London, and to school, Rory is eager at the chance to get back to her normal life. But now she’s behind in her schoolwork, her friends and boyfriend are acting skittish around her, she can’t make contact with the other members of the London ghost-hunting police, and there are a string of bizarre deaths that Rory knows are somehow connected to what happened between her and the Ripper.
Review: The Madness Underneath was a quick read, and on the whole I enjoyed it, but it suffered from a bad case of middle-of-the-trilogy-itis. The Name of the Star had a lot of disparate elements going on, but it told a single cohesive story, even with the twists and turns. The Madness Underneath, on the other hand, didn’t really have a central plot thread (other than “Rory tries to readjust to normal life”) tying all of its pieces together. The result was that the book felt pretty scattered, with sections that I thought were going to be important to the plot fizzling away into nothing, and sections that seemingly came out of nowhere being used mostly to set up the next book. Unfortunately, the pieces of the book that I most enjoyed – the investigations with the Shades, and the visit to Bedlam (y’know, the parts that involved actual ghosts) – were seemingly in the former category. They may become important again in the next book, I don’t know, but they’re dismissed pretty quickly and mostly ignored for the back half of this book.
This scattered storytelling also made it difficult to get really emotionally invested in Rory’s problems. She’s at school, she’s with the Shades, she’s back at school, now there’s a bunch of new characters – it felt like the relationships that Johnson wanted us to care about weren’t really given enough screen time to develop. It also didn’t help that for the last chunk of the book, Rory was acting extremely, extremely dumb. Rory is not depicted as particularly brainy, but neither is she dumb, and yet kept doing the “I have absolutely no qualms at all about this extremely suspicious and qualm-inducing situation” thing that absolutely drives me bonkers.
But all-in-all, even though the pieces didn’t work together particularly cohesively, it was still a fun and easy read. Johnson can write snarky dialogue (or snarky internal monologue) very well, and this book did have a more distinctly London-y feel than its predecessor, which I appreciated. I’ll certainly read the third book when it comes out, in hopes that she can tie together all of the various threads established in this one. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Not a stand-alone, and with a cliffhanger-y ending, so I’d actually recommend waiting until the last book is out before reading (or re-reading?) the series. But it’s good fun for fans of modern YA and/or ghost stories.
Other Reviews: Charlotte’s Library, Stella Matutina, That’s What She Read, and many more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: Charlie Strong liked his customers – you don’t run a pub for twenty-one years if you don’t like your customers – but there was something about the quiet in the morning that pleased him to no end.
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