Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Madness Underneath

by Maureen Johnson
Read: February 28 - March 2, 2013
Published: February 26, 2013 by HarperCollins Children’s Books 
Source: Library
Category: Alternate reality, mystery, ghosts, thriller YA
Series: Shades of London book 2

NOTE: The Madness Underneath is the second book in a series, my thoughts contain spoilers for The Name of the Star

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance. But Rory's brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she's become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades—the city's secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it's too late.In this follow-up to the Edgar Award-nominated The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson adds another layer of spectacularly gruesome details to the streets of London that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. (From Goodreads)

Dear Ms. Johnson, 

You have successfully crushed my hopes for this series. Please tell me that the ending of The Madness Underneath was a joke, and Rory is about to jump out of the bushes and yell "gotcha!" 

Of course, I'm sure you're giggling gleefully at my distress. But for the sake of my sanity, I am requesting that you fix it. Please?

A heartbroken reader 


When The Madness Underneath begins, Rory is in Bristol at her parents house where she was exiled after The Ripper attacked her at her London school. She is watched constantly by her parents and sees a therapist regularly, but none of that is helping her. This is mostly because Rory is forbidden from telling anyone what really happened to her in the bathroom that night or about her ghost-seeing abilities. Not like they would believe her anyway. Thankfully, it is not long before Rory is sent back to Wexford, where everyone hopes she will be able to regain her normal life. Rory is eager to return, although she's not sure if 'normal' is even possible for her anymore. 

You have to appreciate Rory's wit and chatty inner dialogue to enjoy this book. It is not a fast paced thriller, but more an introspective story about Rory recovering from The Ripper attack - physically, but mostly psychological, and coming to terms with her new ability as someone who can see ghosts. She feels out of place at school and directionally lost, which is a very realistic problem for Rory to be facing, especially because she cannot tell any of her school friends about what happened to her that night. On top of that, she's trying to figure out what it means that she is a walking terminus.

Rory uses her tangential stories to distract her friends and therapists from figuring out how much she is struggling. And I'm pretty sure the author was using them to distract the reader from the fact that not a lot happens in this book, as well as the fact that what does happen doesn't make a whole lot of sense. As much as I love hearing all about Rory's kooky southern family, I honestly got bored of her tales after a while.

Despite that, there are a few great creepy London moments in The Madness Underneath, as well as an awesome title that matches those sections. But I wanted a lot more of those parts than we got. Unfortunately, there is also a major storyline in this book that I did not buy at all. In fact, I cringed when it was introduced, because it seemed so transparently ridiculous to me, and I couldn't figure out how Rory was falling for it. Especially, because she is so insightful in the rest of the book. The unfortunate plot-line was left largely unfinished, so I still do not have a great sense about where it is headed. Although, I don't have a whole lot of confidence about where it is going either. 

Thankfully, all of our beloved characters are back, although some more prominently than others. The Shades - Stephen, Callum and Boo, are my favorite secondary characters and I was so glad to see them again. We especially get more Stephen, who is by far my favorite!! Rory also begins to examine her relationship with Jerome (finally!). Honestly, I've always found him to be flat and uninteresting. I think he's a fairly realistic teen boy, with exceptional hair. But with Rory's new ghost abilities, it's hard to fit him into her life. I have personally never been one to spend time on relationships that aren't going anywhere, so going into this book I was hoping that Rory would either drop Jerome, or he would be able to be a part of her real life in a way that would make him more of a contributor. Thankfully, one of those two scenarios does happen. I am glad about progress on that front.  

The Madness Underneath is a transition book, and that did not bug me in and of itself, especially because I was aware of that fact before I started reading (from seeing other reviews). I also did not mind where Rory ends up at the conclusion of the story, although I'm not so sure about everything else. What most frustrates me is how Rory got to where she is at the end, especially because so little happens besides a plot-line that I didn't buy. Even so, the ending pretty much crushed my dreams for this series, and annoyed me because it is taking the story in a direction that I'm not thrilled about. But I'm not giving up on The Shades of London yet, and I'm holding out hope that Ms. Johnson is going to surprise and amaze me in the third installment of this series.

Cliffhanger Scale: Medium - Because of how many unfinished questions/plot-lines there are. 
Love Triangle Factor: Mild


  1. It sounds like The Madness Underneath is suffering from a bad case of the sequel-suck sickness. While I haven't read the first in the series, I do LOVE LOVE LOVE the whole Ripper subject matter and how Johnson weaves paranormal elements into the story. I think the setting fits it quite perfectly. If you liked the first book and protagonist enough, then it sounds like it might be worth sticking it out through book #3. Sorry to hear this one didn't live up to your expectations though!

    1. Sequel Sickness is exactly this book's problem. It's clear the author wanted to take the book in a specific direction, but the way she does it is pretty clunky. I'm not ready to give up on these yet though, but I wish I'd waited until more were out to read. It's disappointing when you wait a year for a book, and this is all you get. But YES the Ripper subject and the creepy London setting is GREAT - and there's a minor plot in this book that is rather awesome and it is just as creepy. Too bad it's not the main event.

  2. Haha I will happily cosign that letter to Maureen!

    Love this thoughtful review, and I couldn't agree more. Especially love this ---> "Rory uses her tangential stories to distract her friends and therapists from figuring out how much she is struggling. And I'm pretty sure the author was using them to distract the reader from the fact that not a lot happens in this book, as well as the fact that what does happen doesn't make a whole lot of sense" YES! Sneaky Maureen, sneaky! I liked the stories and all, and Rory is charming and lovable, but WE STILL NOTICED that there was very little plot, and the story arcs that were introduced were woefully unresolved. Like ALL of them.

    I also love Stephen, he's my favorite! I am pretty much tormented by that ending, and I agree about that plotline that shall not be named being whackadoodle. Hopefully Maureen will make amends in book three. She has her work cut out for her! :-)

    Amazing review, Lauren!

    1. HAHA! We are so on to her ;). But I agree, I enjoyed Rory's tales, but after awhile I got really bored of them and was ready for SOMETHING TO HAPPEN and not that THING that I didn't buy. Or that other THING at the end that I loathed. But as you said, I'm not ready to give up on this series. And STEPHEN. I love him.

  3. Haha, I didn't read this but I did read your letter to MJohnson. She came through here with Stephanie Perkins last weekend. I considered going. I have the first book in this series on my shelf but I haven't read it yet. If this second book isn't great, I know that I won't rush to read this series until I find out how the third book is. THANK YOU for helping me with my TBR a little bit. Sorry I can't really read the blog post - I'm sure your thoughts are wonderful, as always. :)

    1. Oh Oh! I wish you had gone so you could report back to me. Though I know that for you, "close" might not be as close as it would be if someone comes here. I think you usually have to drive. MJ likes to torture her readers. You are better off waiting.

  4. I think he's a fairly realistic teen boy, with exceptional hair. <--Favorite line ever (and so true!).

    I love this review, Lauren. You've done such a good job of talking about both the ups and downs of this book, and I'm glad to have someone share my frustrations about that ending. I hate that I'm mad about it in a way that makes me not even want to continue on with this series. I appreciate wanting to make unexpected choices, and even torture your readers a bit, but driving them away means you've gone TOO FAR, Maureen Johnson.

    I knew you were going to hate the therapist plot line from early on, and I don't blame you--it just didn't fit! Ah well, if you keep going, I'll be excited to see what you think of the next one.

    1. I am a sucker for boys with curly hair! That was honestly my favorite part of Jerome.

      Thanks, Heidi. I was hoping that I would see things differently from you, but no dice. We are definitely on the same page about this book. But I think I have a bit more hope than you do. Though I'm not sure some things can be redone without it going into ridiculous land (it's pretty much already there, anyway). You're right. MJ took the drama and torturing a bit too far.

      Oh that plotline still makes me angry. It didn't work at all. I'm still annoyed.


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