Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Madness Underneath

The Madness Underneath
(The Shades of London, #2)
by Maureen Johnson

Publisher's Blurb:
When madness stalks the streets of London, no one is safe…

There's a creepy new terror haunting modern-day London.
Fresh from defeating a Jack the Ripper killer, Rory must put her new-found hunting skills to the test before all hell breaks loose…

But enemies are not always who you expect them to be and crazy times call for crazy solutions. A thrilling teen mystery.

My (Spoiler-Filled) Reaction:
A quick and thoroughly enjoyable read!   However, I think the blurb is somewhat misleading. This book felt much less case-driven than the first.  The ghost-hunting seems to take less precedence than the character development... or character-propulsion from one stage of life into another-- and that's fine with me.  (For instance, do we ever actually confirm that the weird ghost Rory dispatches from the pub's basement is what really killed that man?  Honestly, I don't care.  I shamelessly admit that I was much more interested in Rory and Stephen than anything else in the book.)

This is definitely an "in-the-middle-of-a-series" book.  There are so many problems and issues left unsettled.  That's always frustrating, when the next book won't be out for months.  But it was still an entertaining tale, and I'm curious to see what happens next. 

Random (Spoilery) Thoughts:
--  The bit about Rory petting a stuffed (dead) dog made me laugh.  I wasn't expecting that.

--  Someone "shook her head in understanding".  I can't picture that.  I think of a head "shaking" (left to right as opposed to up and down) as a signal for "no"-- or in this case, incomprehension.  Someone should nod if they want to indicate understanding, imho.

--  The long bit about how Rory may have a "higher tolerance for crazy talk" than most because of her "background"... Fine, she has peculiar relations.  Maybe it runs in the family.  But then there are all these weird neighbors, too.  "I would be fully absorbed into the crazy wavelength of BĂ©nouville.  Left to my native kind, I would get strange."  I can't recall if the first book mentions her hometown as especially kooky-- stranger than surrounding towns-- but I hope so.  I really don't like this idea that some writers seem to have that the South in general (and Louisiana in particular) is filled with more than its fair share of oddballs.  (Possibly I'm a bit too sensitive about this type of thing, but someone has to defend the South from these bizarre stereotypes.  This obscure little blog is obviously the best place to do so.)

--  When Rory gives up her cell phone, she realizes that she doesn't actually know anyone's phone number, because the numbers are all just stored in the cell phone.  Yep, that's one of those modern problems related to everyone relying so much on technology.  People-- young people in particular, I'd imagine-- don't bother memorizing phone numbers.  But what if you lose your phone... or it's stolen... or broken... and you need to make an emergency call from a borrowed phone?  We really ought to make ourselves memorize the numbers of at least a few key contacts.  (Fortunately for me, my cell phone isn't very "smart", and I'm not reliant on it for much, so I have a few numbers well ensconced in my memory. (g)  On the other hand, I've never sent a text message, and navigating my cell phone's menu system is way more difficult for me than it ought to be.)

--  I guess she was vulnerable at the time, with all those problems piling up on top of her, but it seemed odd that Rory would be so gullible as regards Jane and her brilliant plan for running away.  But, hey, marijuana brownies, so... I guess marijuana brownies can be a plot device useful in explaining away all sorts of erratic or illogical behavior in characters.  ;o)

--  Okay, so the author isn't from the South, obviously.  She has Rory tell a story about how she ran away from home as a little girl, and where she ran away to was Kroger, where her aunt was manager or something.  Only, I live in Alabama and have never laid eyes on a single Kroger that I can recall.  So I don't think they're that common in the South.  Apparently there are some in Southern states, but not many (yet).  I think there's only one in Louisiana.  ...Anyway, just a little thing, but it would've been better if she'd chosen a grocery chain more common to Southern states.  Winn-Dixie?  Or if she wanted to be disgustingly cutesy, Piggly Wiggly.  (g) 

--  The description of how to dial a number on a rotary phone?  Yes, I guess modern YA readers would never have done that, but... it's not exactly a fresh observation.  I'm an old-timer with vague memories of when we replaced the main/kitchen phone with a touch-tone model.  And-- oh gosh, that loooooong curly cord!  It was luxuriously long, to reach all around the kitchen, so you could talk while cooking.  Because of course we didn't have a cordless phone, back then.  You'd stand there and play with the cord while you spoke-- stick a finger through the spiral, or wrap the cord around your finger or arm.  Cordless models give you nothing to fiddle with while you talk. 

--  There's reference to a "bobble hat".  I looked it up online, and-- is really just a toboggan with a pompom on top?  How disappointing.  With a name like that, I was expecting something much more unusual.

--  It felt like Rory might as well never have gone back to school.  She was just floating along-- barely there at all-- and clearly, the only reason for her to go to school was so she had an excuse to get back together with the ghost hunting team.  The going-back-to-school was just a stepping stone into whatever's going to happen in the next book. 

--  I should've known what was coming with Stephen.  I knew there wasn't much left of the book-- and that he'd hit his head-- and then he and Rory had their "breakthrough".  But still, somehow, I wasn't expecting it.  And even when they called the ambulance, I was expecting that he'd be in a coma for a while in the next book.  The others would have to carry on the work without him.  There would be an emotional scene in the hospital after he finally woke up.  But no, he's dead, and now they've tried to make sure he'll be lingering as a ghost.

--  What's next for Stephen?  My guess is that they'll find him, eventually.  Not sure where or how, but Rory will find him.  Since she can interact with ghosts-- even physically-- in theory, they could even pick up their relationship where it left off.  Well, except that if she touches him, she'll zap him, and he won't be around anymore.  So they'll probably have something about that for a while.  (Flashbacks to Pushing Daisies.)  Eventually, maybe Rory will find (or stumble luckily into) a way to transfer her "ghost-killing power" into an object... or another person.  (Callum?)  But what kind of life can she really have with a ghost?  He'll never age.  She'll never be able to introduce him to most people in her life, get married, have kids.  Stephen would never go along with that.  Unless they find a way to bring him back to life (doubtful), I'm not sure how they get a happy ending. 

-- The next one's not out until sometime in 2014, unless they push it back even further.