The Madness Underneath

by Maureen Johnson
ages: 13+
First sentence: “Charlie Strong liked his customers — you don’t run a pub for twenty-one years if you don’t like your customers — but there was something about the quiet in the morning that pleased him to no end.
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Others in the series: Name of the Star

A short story about this first. I had put this one on preorder MONTHS ago at the store, and I knew the release date (because I obsessively follow Maureen Johnson on Twitter) and so when the UPS guy came on Monday, I knew, just KNEW my book was in there. But it was snowing (yet again), and we closed the store early, and the managers were in Kansas City for Winter Institute, and I couldn’t get my book on Monday. So, when Tuesday rolled around, I practically accosted the person responsible for receiving the books into the system, and after paying his bribe of one tall peppermint hot cocoa, I walked out after work a happy woman. I had my MJ.

The initial question here is this: does is live up to the awesomeness that was Name of the Star? The short answer: no. It’s not as good as the first one. It really is a middle book in a series: even though the book starts with a murder, the action really doesn’t get going until page 240 or so. After the Ripper events of Name of the Star, Rory is, understandably, doing a lot of soul searching. To say she’s behind in school is an understatement; in fact, her parents don’t even want her to go back. Her relationship with Jerome is suffering, her connection to Wexford is tentative. In fact, the only thing keeping her going is her place in the ghost squad, and even that’s not at its most healthy. If it wasn’t for the constant humor and — to be truly honest — brilliance in MJ’s writing, the story wouldn’t have been as interesting as it was.

Does that mean it’s not worth reading? Oh, heavens no. IT’S MAUREEN JOHNSON, people. And everything I love about her writing is in there: it’s funny, it’s observant, it’s intelligent, it’s a wee bit swoony, and the ending will catch you completely off guard. In fact, the book is worth reading for the last quarter alone, the set up for the next book that had be both flabergasted, crying “NOT FAIR” on Twitter, and wishing I could pick up the next book right now.

While it’s not the most gripping story, it’s a good middle book. Here’s hoping the next one blows the socks off of me. Then again, it’s MJ. No need to be anxious. 

3 thoughts on “The Madness Underneath

  1. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this one, so I actually read it quite awhile ago, which is cool except that I've been really, really antsy to read the NEXT book in the series. Waiting is tough 😦

    Anyway, I totally agree with you. This one wasn't as good as the first book, but it's still a great read. And the ending — AGHHH! It did totally catch me off guard and I canNOT wait to see how it all turns out.

    Great review, Melissa!


  2. I'm still so angry/disappointed about this one. I love MJ's humor, but it just didn't carry enough weight for me to get over all of my issues with this–it just was NOT worth the wait for me. But, I'm glad that you found it worth reading regardless! I, on the other hand, am DONE with Rory. ><


  3. I haven't read the first book yet, but after reading your review of this second book, I just went and put a hold on the Name of the Star. It sounds like an intriguing series!


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