I did it! I got the second book in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series. When I saw the title was The Madness Underneath, I was ready for some big time drama to unfold and I was not disappointed. There is drama coming out the wazoo in this one. Before I go any further let me just shout *ahem* SPOILER ALERT! BEEP BEEP BEEP SPOILER ALERT! PROCEED WITH CAUTION! SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!! This is the second in the series, so if you have not read the first yet, put some shoes on, go to your library or local bookstore, check out/buy the first one, read it, then come back here and not only will you not feel betrayed and spoiled, but you’ll feel like you’re part of a cool, exclusive club that gets to keep reading right now, because you read the first book. You can be in the loop. So go. Go read, then come join me in the loop. It’s nice in here. There may or may not be donuts and ice-cream, but you’ll never know until you read the first book.
…ok, now that we’ve gotten rid of the dweebs that haven’t read the first book, let’s talk about them behind their backs. I’m totally kidding, that would be mean. Let’s talk about The Madness Underneath. It starts after Rory has been taken out of school and is with her parents in Bristol. Which we all know is not where she needs to be, especially considering she just found out she can kill ghosts by touching them. So, I think we’ve pretty well established that the wonderful Maureen Johnson knows how to write a cliffhanger.
Now, ideally the second book would be a rope thrown to the hanger or a fall off the cliff…resolved. The Madness Underneath seems to just extend the cliff so we can accidentally fall off again then grab onto that flimsy little branch for dear life. There is, of course, a third book so I wasn’t expecting this one to be completely resolved, but this entire book has a transition feel to it. We are very much in Rory’s head and her head is all over the place. What’s interesting is while reading, it didn’t bother me, but thinking back on it is a little unsettling. This could be off putting for some readers but I think it’s actually a very important step that a lot of authors leave out.
The tendency in books in which the main character is living a totally normal life until they’re exposed to a whole new world of magic and danger, is to kind of brush the shock of it off. Sure, the strangeness of the situation is mentioned throughout, or there’s a chapter dedicated to the main character having bit of a come apart, but this seems too small of a reaction when you really think about it. Imagine if you found out ghosts were real, you could see them, you can’t tell your family or your best friends, and you were stabbed, and you don’t really know where you stand with the people that know the truth about what you can do, and not even they know the full truth. Hot damn. I just got a little panicky thinking about all that.
The Madness Underneath explores the feelings behind making decisions and the consequences that come with those decisions. When you keep enough secrets you have to start cutting people out of your life or stop having secrets or go entirely crazy, basically, somethings gotta give. I think we see Rory acknowledge all of these options, test the waters, panic, panic a little more, then decide. If something feels a little off about what she’s doing it’s because she feels a little off about what she’s doing.
Don’t be scared off by the fact that it’s more in Rory’s head. There is still plenty of action and a lot of mystery to keep your mind tick tocking along. It’s a story of figuring things out, and the “things” are all kind of biggies. I’m very glad that I already have the third book, because Maureen Queen of Cliffhangers Johnson left us on a big one. I’m off to start reading what happens next.