Name Of The Star and The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #1 and #2) by Maureen Johnson
September 29, 2012/February 26, 2012
Reviewed by Tori
I read both books back to back and decided to combine them into a single review.
Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series follows a young southern girl’s journey to London where she has chosen to attend school for a year. The first book in the series, The Name Of The Star , introduces us to Rory Devereux, a high school student from a small town in Louisiana whose parents are teaching for a year in England and she chooses to go along. As Rory attempts to find her “British feet” there is a series of murders occurring around the city that mimic the infamous crimes of Jack the Ripper. When Rory has a small mishap that suddenly gives her the power to see spirits, she is thrust into a shadowy world of secret police and the next target of the killer.
Name Of The Star (book one) is a lightweight supernatural YA. Though smoothly written with a steady pace, the premise promised more than what was delivered. I expected more action and suspense in regards to the mystery. While the book was entertaining to a certain extent it was a low key entertainment, not eliciting much emotion either way for me.
We spend a great deal of time in Rory Devereux’s head. We get in depth character analysis of her day to day life yet for all that is written, I ended the story feeling like I never really got to know the true Rory. Perhaps it’s because it was written in Rory’s voice, you miss the other characters observations which can sometimes bring us closer to our protagonist. I did enjoy meeting her though. She is laid back young lady with a humorous outlook on life. Johnson has a comforting voice which makes it very easy to connect with Rory and watch her experience new things through her eyes. The majority of the book focuses on Rory’s day to day activities with the mystery of the serial killings running in the background, which in my opinion, drags the story down.
Our secondary characters are abundant and personable, but again, we don’t get an in depth look into their psyche. For instance, Rory’s boyfriend Jerome lacks a place in the story other than being used as plot device. Her best friend and roommate, Jazza, was a little more developed but the build up of her character and her part in the drama feel flat once details were revealed and the main conflict played out. I wanted more from her characters and the storyline then Johnson was willing to give.
There are multiple sub stories running throughout that cause confusion at times. I found myself wondering why certain aspects were added as they really didn’t add to the story and faded away without explanation. The action is minimal and very benign for what I expected of a supernatural thriller. At times I was hooked by the story and other times I had to stop myself from skipping through boring scenes. I found the emotional responses to be very muted.
The mystery itself is interesting with injects of suspense and intrigue but it quickly becomes a case of too much information and not enough character interaction. The resolution of the main conflict was exciting but very short. Again, I expected more. It’s solved and we’re done.
Book two, The Madness Underneath, picks up a few weeks after book one ends. Rory has been recuperating at home after being injured helping to take the Ripper down. Her therapist recommends she head back to school as a way to combat her fears. Rory has developed a new aspect to her ability to her seeing spirits and soon finds herself caught between two groups who want her and her powers.
This one was a disappointment for me. Rory remains her eccentric humorous self but the book itself doesn’t deliver on the premise. The first half sets up Rory dealing with the new aspect of her gift and doing some investigating on her own. The two main storylines start out extremely well and I was looking forward to seeing where Johnson would take them, but once again she falls back on building the story around Rory and they are left floundering. As with book one, certain scenes and plot lines don’t fully develop and we are left with many questions. Rory is more proactive in this installment but her actions and responses are extremely juvenile (for her age) and she pulls some stunts that made me question her intelligence. The romance is extremely light. The ending is fast and rushed with a cliffhanger that resolves nothing and leaves you feeling like you missed something.
All in all, this series is a quick read that I’d save for a beach and/or rainy day read. I would have enjoyed more if the conflicts has garnered the same exploration and emotion that our protagonist’s day to day musings had. The appeal and telling of it is geared towards a younger YA crowd, in my opinion.
Overall rating: C- for Name Of The Star and D for The Madness Underneath.