The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
Author: Maureen Johnson
Series: book two of Shades of London
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication Date: 26 February 2013
Status: electronic (ARC)
The Madness Underneath for purchase at The Book Depository
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley. As I understand it, the version I read differs slightly from the published version.
THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH picks up shortly after THE NAME OF THE STAR ends. Rory is powerless to explain the first book's happenings to her parents, so they've withdrawn her from school and set her up with a not-so-helpful therapist--who surprises everyone by insisting that Rory should return to the scene of her unvoicable trauma. Back at boarding school, Rory struggles to cope with her changing abilities, academic pressure, and a new supernatural threat that looms over London.
Oh, friends, I do love Rory. She’s got such a quirky voice and a unique take on events. I especially like her sense of humour, which parallels my own, and the way she throws herself into the thick of things. The inside of her head is an awesome place to spend nearly four hundred pages. Her first person narration keeps the book fresh and interesting even when the action fades into the background. I can’t wait to spend some more time with her in the next book.
That said, TMU is most definitely the second book in a series and should not be approached as a standalone. Johnson offers a few reminders as to what happened in TNoTS, but she assumes the reader will remember all the most important things without prompting. Even though the focus rests firmly on Rory's journey forward, many prior events colour her worldview. They play into her character development as she deals with everything that's happened to her and gains a greater understanding of her powers. If you want to get the most out of THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH, read THE NAME OF THE STAR FIRST.
Trust me, this is no great hardship. THE NAME OF THE STAR is awesome, and THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH is a fine sequel. Johnson expands on her basic premise--that some people can see ghosts and deal directly with supernatural phenomena--and thickens the plot with involvement from an unexpected quarter. Some of what we learned in the last book no longer applies, while the new information we receive primes the pump for more developments in the future. The story gains traction as it rolls along, culminating in an “OMG did that actually happen?” ending that left me eager for the next book.
I didn’t love it the way I loved THE NAME OF THE STAR, though; probably because it’s not a complete story in its own right. It adds to TNoTS and sets things up for the as-yet-untitled third book, but it offers far more questions than answers. The stakes rise high but remain largely unresolved by the novel’s end.
Please don’t view that as a negative so much as a caution for those who dislike cliffhangers. THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH has much to offer the reader, even without a clear resolution. It features a fantastic narrator, great character and premise development, and some tantalizing hooks that look set to pay off big time in the next book.
3.5 stars – really liked it
There are already a fair number in the Book Blogs Search Engine, and I'm sure there's more to come now the book has hit shelves.
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