THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH is a worthy sequel to last year's fabulous THE NAME OF THE STAR. It's just as suspenseful, funny, and full of lovely, vivid details that bring the story to life.
The pacing is perfect. Both the internal and external conflict escalate at a steady rate. I felt fully invested in Rory's inner journey as she tries to recover from the trauma of being stabbed by a ghost, and I felt fully engaged with the increasing suspense outside of Rory as ghost activity (and some truly creepy humans) begin to demand Rory's attention. The pacing gives a tension to the story that made it impossible put the book down.
The setting is flawless. London comes to life in vivid detail, from Rory's boarding school to the streets that wind through town to the rain that falls with relentless dependability. The British characters feel authentically British, and Rory notices cultural quirks (such as loving the color red because it stands out in the rain) that make the entire setting feel absolutely real to the reader.
My favorite part of the story is Rory herself. She's a stubborn, brave, flawed, funny character who always feels like an authentic teenager suddenly thrust into a crazy situation. I found myself laughing often even while I was quickly turning pages because I desperately needed to know what happened next. Readers will relate to Rory as she struggles with depression and with uncertainty over her future even as they enjoy her quick one-liners and her irrepressible (often self-deprecating) sass.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The only thing I wanted from this book that I didn't get was a better sense of Rory's romantic interests. I had this issue with the first book. I never felt a connection to the boy she was dating, and I still didn't. Rory is very self-aware but seems to lack the kind of awareness of her romantic interests that would allow the reader to have a crush on her swoony boyfriend as well.
Dark, funny, and thrillingly atmospheric, THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH is a stellar sequel sure to keep readers turning pages long past their bedtime.