Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 4494
Powerful
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson is the second in Johnson's "Shades of London" series, about Rory Devereaux. She is a teenage girl who stumbles upon (in the first novel, The Name of the Star) a Jack-the-Ripper copycat killer during her first year at a London boarding school, which results in her near death. This may all seem relatively cut-and-dry, but what makes Johnson's plot unique is the inclusion of the "Shades," a small group of ghost hunters that have an integral part to the story.

In The Madness Underneath, due to Rory's experiences in the first novel, she has no one to turn to but the Shades as she attempts to deal with the aftermath of her prior experiences. She is horribly confused, and feels the Shades are the only ones who will understand. At one point she tells herself:
"You can't curl up on the sofa and deny life forever. Life is always going to be a series of ouch-making moments, and the question was, was i going to go all fetal position, or was I going to woman up?"
As Rory grows closer to the members of the Shades, she feels less and less comfortable at the boarding school. She thinks "I felt like I was faking all of this, like I was playing the part of a student. I had the costume and the props, but I didn't really belong here. I'd pinned notes on the stupid corkboard backing of my desk, and I'd highlighted things...But it was all so meaningless."

Then, a new string of deaths begins in London, and Rory and the Shades need to figure out what is going on and why. As the plot begins to spiral out of control, Johnson ends the novel on such a cliff hanger that I would have had a moment à la Pat in Silver Linings Playbook had I not been on an airplane. I immediately looked up to see that the third novel won't be out until 2014, and have resigned myself to wait.

The Madness Underneath is a powerful novel that draws the reader in unexpectedly and easily, which makes the ending that much more difficult to bear. I am very excited to read books three and four in the series. Maureen Johnson is a master at her craft, and I would recommend this book highly to anyone over the age of thirteen or so.
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