A double or triple pun in the title resonates throughout the creepy, clever and ambiguous second volume in the Shades of London series, following The Name of the Star (2011).
Aurora—Rory—a Louisiana-bred teen at a boarding school in London while her parents teach in Bristol, is recovering from a stab wound, an encounter with the Ripper and the sudden absence of the Shades, friends who secretly hunt ghosts. Rory narrates in her thoughtful, voluble, acutely aware teen voice: about her boyfriend, Jerome, how he makes her feel and why they break up; about lying to her therapist, her roommate and her teachers; about Stephen, Callum and Boo. They are the Shades, whose job is to prevent ghosts from murdering people. Two more murders occur, and it becomes apparent that the Shades need Rory’s own power (she can destroy ghosts with a touch). Rory is lonely and confused, but she also revels in the power she has; her delight is as vivid as her confusion. The story suffers somewhat from a slow beginning, in which readers are brought up to speed from the previous volume, and greatly from a cliffhanger ending that will drive readers up a (ancient, cracked stone) wall with frustration that the next book is not available right now. As always, Johnson wields words with a supple facility that keeps those pages turning.
The London minutiae are utterly engaging, the villains satisfyingly weird and numerous. And there is kissing. (Supernatural thriller. 12 & up)
Who doesn’t love kissing?
If don’t already know, Penguin is running a huge pre-order campaign for The Madness Underneath. All copies ordered through any of these great independent bookstores come with a fabulous set of stickers personally chosen by MJ herself, as well as a signed bookplate. What are you waiting for? Go! Order!