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.
Tell Me More: I was genuinely afraid to read this book, and not just because Maureen Johnson succeeded in crafting a truly creepy ghost story in The Name of the Star. Sophomore novels in general tend to be hit-or-miss for me, and as much as I was looking forward to returning to Wexford with Rory, there was no guarantee that The Madness Underneath would be as compelling a story. Fortunately, I was wrong.
Rory is not even close to being okay at the start of The Madness Underneath. She doesn’t get any closer to being normal throughout the course of the book, and that ended up being one of my favourite things about the story. She’s just as awkward and her actions just as instinctive as they were in Name of the Star, which helps the reader settle into the plot. She is just as confused and curious as the reader, and Johnson uses that to spring plot twist after plot twist. You never get a chance to relax while reading–the pacing never feels slow because you feel like it’s all happening to you as well.
Johnson also brings back some amazing characters and I absolutely loved seeing Jazza, Stephen and Boo again. They serve as excellent foils for the strange changes in Rory, and they keep her (and in turn, the reader) grounded despite the fast turns that the plot takes. And oh, what a plot it is. Johnson’s writing evokes danger on every page–I found that I was suspicious of every single new character until proven otherwise, which made for an ultra compelling reading experience. And unlike other books that are second or third in an extended series, the main mystery of The Madness Underneath is strong enough to carry the characters through without feeling forced or pointless.
The action, horror and emotional high stakes build slowly to a literally stunning ending. No, really. I threw my book across the room. Johnson isn’t a writer who has ever been afraid to take risks, but I have to give her props for making me lose my breath from shock. In the rare event that you pick up The Madness Underneath and find the story lackluster, I guarantee that the ending will make you want to reread it over and over again to find hints as to what could possibly happen in the third novel.
The Final Say: The second installment of the Shades of London series will astonish and scare readers of all ages, and may actually make the YA readersphere explode with emotions.
Maureen knew from an early age she wanted to be a writer. She went to high school at an all-girls’ Catholic school and graduated from University of Delaware with a degree in writing. She now lives and writes in New York City.
Many of the adventures Maureen’s characters face in her books are based on real-life stories. Maureen has traveled all over Europe, and is a Secret Sister to vlog brothers Hank and John Green.