The Madness Underneath

Madness UnderneathThe Madness Underneath (Shades of London 2) by Maureen Johnson

Published by Harper Collins Childrens Books 

4.5 out of 5 stars

Released March 2013

Format: ARC/Egalley

***This is the second book in the series, there may be spoilers of book one in here, read at your peril***

Anyone that reads my blog (georgemartin31.tumbler.com) knows that I was a little over excited by the prospect of reading this book. I squeaked when the email from NetGalley came through confirming I’d been given access to it early. SQUEAKED.

Why? Because of the first Shades book (Name of the Star) was excellent, a fantastically twisting paranormal crime YA thriller (and there aren’t many of those around…)

So NOTS left off with Rory in a bit of a mess, she’d been gutted by the not-ripper-Alexander and then her friend’s, ghost bestie, Jo saved her, exploded and took the not-ripper-Alexander with her (got that? – try to keep up). THEN Rory manages to explode a nice, not threatening Ghost. Why? Because now Rory’s the Terminus (Ghost-killing-thingy) and she can terminate ghosts with a touch.

***Small spoilers included such as location, characters present, nothing majorly-plot related***

We catch up with Rory in a bit of mess, she’s in Bristol, in therapy (not the best place for a big talker that can’t actually talk about whats wrong) and pretty laid back about it all. Too laid back – the reader gets the feeling that Rory is in denial (as does her shrink), and she’s as surprised by anyone when she’s sent back to Wexford. Rory struggles to balance everything, her is-he-isnt-he boyfriend Jerome, her school work, her new abilities and the effects it can have on her ghost friends, her social life and the shades.

This book doesn’t really have a main big-bad, although its setting up for a major nasty in book 3. Instead its about Rory’s struggles, and her finding where she fits. Thats not to say there aren’t ghosts, because there are, some real nasty ones too, but trouble doesn’t just come in ghost form and Rory is only just discovering that. Thats where Johnson has excelled the first book, in NOTS the main story arc was about Rory’s abilities and the excitement of this new world, as well as a sadistic killer ghost. TMU is far more subtle in its writing, its whats NOT written that makes the story, the hints, the character development and most of all Rory.

Rory is impossible to dislike, she’s that part of us that we wish we could tap into more (except the over-talking, I manage that all on my own). She’s kind, a little selfish but overcomes that when she’s really needed, she tries to be a good friend and she’s incredibly innocent. I love the Rory that Johnson writes, her stories of Louisiana and her crazy world and I can hear the southern accent when reading it, and I love the fact that because of this crazy world Rory is anything but. She’s normal (if a little naive). She’s also a rarity in YA fiction, she’s got her own free will, she’s not instantly drawn to a guy because of fate, which then in turn makes her a wet rag. Rory is tough when she needs to be and gets things wrong (very wrong on occasion in both books!), she thinks she’s stronger than she is, and panics when she should be calm. I repeat: she’s normal.

The other characters don’t get as much of a stage in this book, its all about Rory, which as you can tell I don’t mind. Stephan, Callum, Boo and Jezza don’t really develop at all, but thats ok, because they were weighty parts in the first book and the reader knows them already. Some new faces are introduced too, it will be interesting to see where they take us in book 3.

I just have one note on the ending, as I don’t want to spoil things I’ll keep in vague. ‘WHHHHHHHAAAAAAATTTTTTTT’? My jaw is still dropped. I fear I may have to shout at the book for a while.

So to conclude. I loved TMU, just as much as NOTS. But make no mistake, they are very different books. If you are looking for a carbon copy of NOTS you won’t get it, you won’t get anything like it. Which is great, who wants to read the same story re-written over and over again?

Johnson has an ability to draw the reader into a magnificently crafted shadow world, filled with characters that you want to invite into your home (well maybe not the bad guys…), I cannot praise this book, or series enough.

ARC/Egally kindly provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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