February 17, 2013

Review: The Madness Underneath

Hey guys! I recently finished Maureen Johnson’s newest read and let me tell you, you need her in your life.

And by need her in your life, I mean she needs to be your best friend. Oh wait, I mean she needs to be my best friend, but that’s a different matter.

On to her newest novel…

Title: The Madness Underneath
Author: Maureen Johnson
ISBN: 9780399256615
Pages: 304                          
Available: February 26, 2013
Source: Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

My Thoughts:

I read quite a bit of this novel at the gym. This was a good decision and a bad decision.

Here’s why it was a good decision: it was crazy good which helped me forget the fact that I was sweating like a pig. It was so crazy good that I found myself trucking a bit faster on the elliptical and treadmill.

Here’s why it was a bad decision: I was constantly convinced there was a ghost behind me waiting to take me out. I had hair standing up on my arms and a tingly feeling on my neck, like someone was blowing. Of course, that could have been the wind from my jogging, but I’m sticking with the ghost idea.

Now that I have that out of the way, I have to say that I truly enjoyed every word of this novel. I feel like almost every book I review I say that about, but guys there is a lot of great YA storytelling happening right now. This sequel is no exception.

I love series books for a variety of reasons, but mostly I enjoy getting to know the characters, their families, their friends. While I have read a lot of amazing stand-alone novels, nothing says “home” to me than a series. While some may not use that phrase to describe this particular series, I do. I am invested in Rory’s story, and I am pleased with where Johnson has taken her.

Instead of moving us forward too fast, Johnson takes her time in this sequel. I don’t mean she moves the plot along too slowly. She allows it to open to us, to allow us to catch up with where Rory is in her life, and in her recovery. This was nice. I was afraid I would be thrown months into the future, but Johnson did not make that mistake.

Rory is dealing with what has happened to her, and we see the repercussions on all levels. We see how the attack has affected her parents, her friends, her boyfriend, her colleagues, and herself. There are heart-wrenching moments of wanting to scoop Rory up and give her a big bear hug of awesome, and then there are moments of terror—of course, I scare easily, so some of you may not find them as terrifying as I did. These nice contrasts meet in the middle to provide us with a solid sequel.

As the novel opens, Rory is in Bristol with her parents. She’s in therapy, trying to deal with the Ripper attack, but how can she fully deal with what’s happened when she cannot tell the truth? She signed a paper promising to keep the Shades a secret, and she will not violate their trust. But when her therapist advises her parents to return her to Wexford as a part of her therapy, Rory’s life begins to shift. This is no longer a distant memory. This happened, and she is in the place where it started—and ended.

A crack is all it takes to send Rory’s keen sense of discovery on a new hunt, one she needs Stephen to believe. After all, the Shades need her. She is now a terminus, and she is their only hope of staying afloat. But she must first convince them to be on her side and to include her in their group. This crack is the key. Rory knows it. She feels it.

If being a terminus is not enough of drama in Rory’s life, she finds that she is not doing well at Wexford. She has not completed her assignments, and she is on the verge of being dismissed. She can’t risk it. Without being in London, she cannot be a part of the Shades. She can’t go back to Bristol, can she?

Desperate times = desperate measures.

Enter Jane. A woman of high monetary means who helps those who need it the most. At least, therapy wise.

At Charlotte’s suggestion, Rory contacts Jane to see if she can help her because no matter how hard she tries, Rory is not okay. She is not recovering. She needs someone to talk to, and Jane may be the one to lead Rory back to her sanity.

Jane is a bit of an interesting character. I don’t know if any of you have ever seen the show ‘LOST’, but her character reminded me of Eloise Hawking. If there is ever a movie/TV show ever made of this series, actress Fionnula Flanagan must play Jane. Period. I won’t have it any other way.

I must not forget the Shades themselves. Stephen, Callum, and Boo make an appearance throughout, but I wanted a bit more of them. That’s it. That is my only complaint. But Johnson did not have a choice. If she was going to give us a broken Rory trying to pick up her life pieces, those three were going to have to be sprinkled throughout instead of having a center spot.

The spotlight is Rory’s—and she fills it well.

What it all boils down to is this: strong characters, strong story, cliffhanger of evil.

Oh that ending. Maureen Johnson is killing me with it, but it was a necessity. You might want tissue with you, just in case. You have been warned. But it’s good. I mean, really, really good.

About forty-five percent into the novel the title starts to come into play. I always like to guess a novel’s plot just on the title alone, and I was not too sure where she was taking me at first. When that light bulb went off, I was excited. I enjoy ghost stories, but I especially love ghost stories where…wait. I can’t say. I think it’s too important and you need to discover that for yourself. Let’s pretend that I never said anything, okay?

While looking over my Goodreads comments, at one point I wrote, “Only Maureen Johnson could have a ghost appear on the page that would terrify me but mix it with cleverly funny dialogue to appease my terror—love it!” This is one of the many reasons you should give this series a shot. And on that comment, that is where I will leave this review.

Have you read ‘Name of the Star’ or ‘The Madness Underneath’? What are your thoughts?

What’s the most terrifying ghost story you’ve ever read? What's the best Jack the Ripper story? Share and discuss below.

Happy Reading!

-          The Hodgenator

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