*** This review contains no spoilers for The Madness Underneath, but does have spoilers for The Name of the Star (the first book in the series)
When I started The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson (Book 2 in the Shades of London series) I knew the book wouldn’t be bad … but I also didn’t expect much. Maureen Johnson is definitely a good writer, as well as being one of Alison Lee’s favorite young adult authors. Still, the first book in the series, The Name of the Star, left me feeling kind of mehh about continuing the series.
Where the Name of the Star seemed to be doing too much and contained abrupt shifts between contemporary YA romance to paranormal historical paranormal, The Madness Underneath seemed to be as consistent as the wit of main character Rory Devereaux.
The sequel picks up with Rory stuck in Bristol with her parents after being pulled out of her London boarding school where a ghostly Jack the Ripper rip off attacked her. And by “ghostly” I mean a literal ghost – oh yeah, sorry for the spoiler but Rory had developed the ability to see ghosts after almost chocking in the cafeteria. Also, she had discovered a super secret real life ghost busters like team of police called “the Shades” … who also all were teenagers.
So now that we are caught up, Rory is trying to deal with the aftermath of the attack. She has to hide the truth from her therapist. Her parents are being way over-protective. She misses her friends, and occasional “make out buddy” Jerome, and she has been forbidden to speak to Stephen, Callum, and Boo (the members of the Shades). On top of all this, she discovers that her attack has turned her into a human terminus, which means she eliminates ghosts on contact, whether she wants to or not. With a series of unexplainable deaths, Rory must re-enter boarding school and try to get the Shades to listen to her.
This book has most of the delightful qualities of its predecessor, but with a consistent tone and seriousness that was missing in the first book. It is darker, but less gruesome. There is more kissing (!) but more complexity in the romantic relationships. The character development continues to deepen both for Rory (who we see grappling with the enormity of her experiences) and several of the secondary characters. Unless you are clairvoyant the ending will knock you off your chair and have you shouting “What?” and “Oh my god!”. Overall, if you have read the first book and are considering continuing with the series, I would say go for it!