Thursday, June 6, 2013

REVIEW: The Madness Underneath ("Never get stabbed--it makes everything awkward")

Johnson, M.  (2013).  The Madness Underneath.  New York:  G.P. Putnam's Sons.

290 pages.

Appetizer:  After the traumas she experienced at the end of The Name of the Star, Louisiana native, Rory, is recovering in Bristol and seeing a shrink several times each week.  She wants nothing more than to return to Wexford, her school in London, return to her kinda-sorta boyfriend, Jerome, and return to the secret government organization that hunts troublesome ghosts and that demanded her silence before disappearing.  But, Rory has to get into contact with that organization after confirming her dangerous new ability--the ability to destroy any ghost with a single touch.  Even after she gets her wish and returns to Wexford, adapting to her old routine will be far from easy, especially with new ghostly murders occurring and final exams for the winter semester approaching.

With many touches of humor and insights into London, The Madness Underneath is certainly an enjoyable read.  I got into just as easily as I did the first book and had a "welcome back" feeling.  I had flashbacks to my own time in London and was left wishing I could be there now.  Yayz!  I love a book that can do that.

There were aspects of The Madness Underneath that I did find disappointing though.  Mainly, I had an issue with this book's villain.  From the very first descriptions of the character, I knew this person was up to no good (and I believe, ideally, the reader wasn't supposed to be completely clued in to that fact).  Being a book and movie nerd, I often do suspect evil-doing characters long before they're revealed, but this villain was still a little too obvious, even for those usual suspicions.  So, with each conversation with this character and especially when Rory eventually makes choices that involve taking this villain's advice, the "No!  Don't open that door!" or the "He's right behind you holding the knife.  Turn around, you idiot!" feeling wasn't satisfying or empathetic.  It was more of a "You're an idiot.  You will regret this.  Such an idiot.  I told you so, idiot." moment.  Not quite on the level of throwing the book through a closed window a la Silver Linings Playbook, but close.

I missed some of the themes and issues that were in the first book, like the emphasis on seeing and being seen.  Although, the discussions of recovering from trauma and seeking empowerment were a nice touch.  I think Johnson did a wonderful job of presenting how Rory was dealing with this.  I also liked the attitude Rory eventually had towards her relationship with Jerome.  I was still left expecting and wanting a little bit more.

Dinner Conversation:

"Back at Wexford, where I went to school before all of this happened to me, they made me play hockey every day.  I had no idea how to play hockey,, so they covered me in padding and made me stand in the goal.  From the goal, I could watch my fellow players run around with sticks.  Occasionally they'd whack a small, very hard ball in my direction.  I would dive out of the way, every time.  Apparently, avoiding the ball isn't the point of hockey, and Claudia would scream, "No, Aurora, no!" from the sidelines, but I didn't care.  I take my best lessons from nature and nature says, "When something flies at your head--move."
I didn't think hockey had trained me for anything in life until I went to therapy." (p.9)

"I'd tried to make a new friend, and I had blown him up.
I'd been told to keep quiet, and I had.  But it wasn't going to work anymore.  I needed, Stephen, Callum, and Boo again.  I needed them to know what was going on with me.  I had bade a few efforts to find them in the last week.  Nothing serious--I'd just tried to find profiles on social networking sites.  No matches.  This much I expected.
Today I was going to try a bit harder." (p. 28)

"'In my opinion, I feel...very strongly...that Rory should be returned to Wexford.'
I seriously almost fell off the sofa.
"I'm sorry?" my mother said.  "You think she should go back?"
"I realize what I'm saying may run counter to all your instincts," Julia said, "But let me explain.  When someone survives a violent assault, a measure of control is taken away.  In therapy, we aim to give victims back their sense of control over their own lives.  Rory's been removed from her school, taken away from her friends, taken out of her routine, out of her academic life.  I believe she needs to return.  Her life belongs to her, and we can't let her attacker take that away." (p. 34)

"So you are the only terminus.  Then I saw what happened to you...I needed to show Thorpe that there was one terminus left.  I also needed a good reason to bring you back.  I was never comfortable with you being sent away like that, on your own, with no support.  This solved both problems.  We'll be allowed to keep going for a while now that he's seen." (p. 65)

"The room and I had been broken, and we had a similarly shaped reminder of what had happened to us.  And if the Ripper came back, which he wouldn't, I would blast him into a giant ball of white light and smoke.  One brush of my hand, and that was all it would take.  I was empowered, literally.  That's what I had to remember.  I was bigger and badder than any ghost that crossed my path.  That hadn't occurred to me before.  They needed to fear me.  I'd never been fearsome before." (p. 87)

"I just wanted to go back to bed and wake up when I was twenty-five." (p. 197)

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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