Genre: YA paranormal
Shades of London: (1) The Name of the Star, (2) The Madness Underneath
After the events of last term, everyone understands if Rory doesn’t want to go back to school. After all, she was the sole witness to the Jack the Ripper murders and she has just discovered that she can see ghosts. While that latter fact isn’t quite so widely known, her school and new friends recognise that she’s had an ordeal; no one’s more surprised than Rory when her therapist suddenly does a complete U-turn and suggests that the best thing would be for Rory to return to her normal routine at Wexford.
Rory isn’t quite ready to go back to school, but it’s better than the alternative of her parents wrapping her up in cotton wool for the rest of her life. While she loves being back in her old room at Wexford with her best friend Jazza and make-out-buddy Jerome, things can’t go back to how they used to be, however much Rory wishes it. While worrying about all the classes that she’s missed and the exams that she’s not going to be able to sit, Rory has a shocking revelation. Her encounter with ‘Jack’ during the climax and culmination of his attacks has left more than just memories: something happened that night and now Rory has become a weapon.
Rory is all too willing to use her new powers for the greater good, but it’s difficult to keep up that side of her life without her school friends noticing that she’s slipping further and further behind in her schoolwork. She finds friendship and comfort in therapist Jane Quaint and suddenly she’s found her purpose for being. But Jane isn’t as altruistic as she first seems and soon, Rory is faced with a situation that will test her new powers to their limits …
I was disappointed with The Madness Underneath after how fantastic The Name of the Star was. Book one had been fresh, fast-paced, dramatic and chilling and the perfect train companion when I was interning in London. Part of my dislike of The Madness Underneath stems from the fact that we see a shift away from Jerome as Rory’s love interest. This is admittedly petty of me, but I squirrel out and zoom in on the romance in everything I read.
I do think that The Madness Underneath is a lot less relatable than The Name of the Star. Book one saw Rory starting a new school and plunged into a world of unfamiliarity as she has to start in a new environment, make new friends and get used to England as well as deal with the Ripper killings right on her doorstep. Now that Rory is familiar with her abilities, she’s less of a schoolgirl and we venture more into the world of the paranormal/urban fantasy. Not that I don’t like the latter genres, but part of my love for The Name of the Star was how easily accessible Rory was to the reader, and I think that we’ve unfortunately lost that easy connection.
Maureen Johnson's style is fantastic. I've forgotten how much I like reading YA and Ms Johnson's work is the perfect reminder. I'm currently halfway through her Devilish and have fond memories of The Bermudez Triangle which I read back in summer of 2007; I've always been trying to get hold of her mainstream young adult novels. I was unable to invest in The Madness Underneath in the same way as I had with The Name of the Star and book two ended in a way that suggests another book in the series. Given the quality of Ms Johnson's writing, I'm more than willing to test whether a further book in the series will capture my interest just as much as The Name of the Star did.
Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.