BOOK REPORT for The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2)  by Maureen Johnson

Cover Story: A For Effort
BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Twist
Bonus Factors: Ghosts, London, Creepy Old Insane Asylum
Relationship Status: Rebound

Madness Underneath

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Cover Story: A For Effort

We love to complain about the horrendous covers that plague the YA genre, so when a publisher actually makes some progress, we give them their due credit. Congrats, Putnam! You have managed to completely surpass the artwork on the first Shades of London novel, which isn't saying much, but still, we congratulate you. The cover of The Madness Underneath is spooky, just like its contents, and the ghost-like quality of the art is fitting. But to be honest, even a crappy Twilight cover rip-off would be an improvement over Ashton Kutcher in a top hat.

The Deal:

The following contains spoilers from The Name of the Star, the first book in the series.

After nearly dying at the ghostly hands of Alexander Newman, Rory Devereaux has been sent home to recover with her parents. But even though her scar is healing, her life remains torn apart by knowledge she is forbidden to share on the existence of ghosts and the world of the Shades (ghost police). Rory is dying to get back to London and continue her work with the Shades, especially because she has somehow developed a new power—not only can she see ghosts, she can kill them with one touch. And given a recent murder near Rory's school, her ability might be highly needed...and sorely tested.

BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh

We invented the Roger Murtaugh charm for characters that will probably appeal to actual teenagers but not so much to adults. In other words, we're too old for this shit. Rory is a great example of this polarization, because she's funny and quirky and spunky, which I love, but she's also completely clueless, which annoys me to no end. I enjoyed her eccentric family stories (seriously, how can I get adopted by a Devereaux?) and I completely empathized with her emotional angst and confusion, but that wasn't enough for me to put up with her reckless decisions and endless moping. I also don't understand how someone who can see ghosts can still be so oblivious to common sense. I mean, seriously, young lady, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? And how could you be so CARELESS? And to conclude this lecture, GET OFF MY LAWN.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

I can't say much without resorting to spoilers, but I was disappointed by the romance in this book. The Name of the Star built up some major hotness potential that was simply squandered by the sequel. And when something finally (finally!) happened, the lack of buildup made it completely unsatisfying. If Johnson had thrown us a bone with some tingles and tension along the way, the payoff would have been MUCH more enjoyable.

Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Twist

Maureen Johnson has almost perfected the balance of realism and quirk in her writing style. Rory's voice is engaging and authentic, whether she's spinning a tale of her cooky Louisiana relatives or delivering great one-liners like, "Never get stabbed—it makes everything awkward." Her random tangents, while entertaining, are carefully curtailed by spurts of plot development. Johnson has a great ear for dialogue and an excellent taste for the weird, resulting in pages that won't be so much read as flown through. I only wish the pace of the story had kept up with the pace of my literary appetite, because I wanted more thrills than this novel delivered. The Name of the Star made my heart pound with excitement and fear, but the cardio I got from The Madness Underneath is akin to some light power-walking.

Bonus Factor: Ghosts

Maureen Johnson subscribes (as she should) to the Ghostbusters philosophy that some ghosts are terrifying, but others are just plain annoying. The ghosts in this novel fell more under the latter category, but it was still fascinating to meet these wisps of history.

Bonus Factor: London

It's fun to experience London through Rory's perspective, especially since she, as an American, appreciates its history as well as its hustle and bustle. As soon as the city takes care of its pesky ghost problem, I am totally booking a vacay there.

Bonus Factor: Creepy Old Insane Asylum

Ok, this is barely in the book, but all I need is a hint of a creepy old insane asylum to get a delicious case of the HEEBIE JEEBIES. I'm hoping we'll see more of this bonus factor in the third book.

Casting Call:

Megan cast Rory in her review, but I'm gonna gonna switch things up and go with:

Katie Findlay as Rory

And since Simon is my favorite dude (sorry, Jerome!), I'll give him the casting (preferred) treatment as well.

Ethan Peck as Simon

Relationship Status: Rebound

Listen, book, I'll be honest. I enjoyed my time with The Name of the Star, and I was hoping that you could fill that gap in my literary life. I wasn't looking for anything serious, just some chills and thrills, but our relationship didn't really meet my needs. You were a fun distraction, to be sure, but you were also a means to an end. So thanks for entertaining me, but until the third book comes out, I'll be getting my kicks elsewhere.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Penguin. The Madness Underneath will be available on February 26th.

Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. The founder of Forever Young Adult, Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).