For six years during my twenties, I worked as one of the principal ghostwriters for a mass-market series for teenaged girls called Sweet Valley High. Years later, I’m still trying to make sense of what these books meant to me—why I wrote so many of them, and why (eventually) I stopped. The books are packed away in my attic now—dozens of them, with their lilac and dusty-pink paperback covers—but the experience is harder to sort out and put away.
It's rare that I write a book on its actual DAY OF PUBLICATION, but here we are with The Madness Underneath. Spoilers about The Name of the Star will be out in full force here, so if you haven't read it (SERIOUSLY??), you'll want to go and do that before reading the rest of this post.
Since being stabbed by the Ripper copycat (who was a ghost, but not Jack the Ripper's ghost), Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol with her parents, recovering both physically and mentally. Well, sort of. Despite the expectations of her therapist, her parents, and pretty much everyone else she has contact with—all things considered, she's feeling pretty okay, post-attack.
Other than being totally behind in her schoolwork, anyway.
And other than being forced to sign the Official Secrets Act, which means that she has promised to never, ever, ever tell anyone about what happened over the course of the first book... which means she can't ever tell the truth about herself or the attack.
And other than the fact that she's never to have any contact with Stephen or Callum or Boo again, the only people who really understand who and what she is, ever again.
Oh, and other than being a HUMAN FREAKING TERMINUS, so she will poof any ghost that comes into contact with her, whether she likes it or not.
Other than all that, she's fine.
Sure she is.
Things I like about this series:
Oh, you know: EVERYTHING. Then again, I've never met a Maureen Johnson book that I haven't liked, so it's possible that I'm just predisposed to enjoy her writing/sense of humor/storylines/etc.
I liked that when it went in a certain direction, I did the, "NOOOOOOOO, RORY WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?", but that Johnson made Rory's decision to disregard her gut instinct (which, for the most part, was ALSO saying, "NO NO NO NO NO, THIS IS A BAD IDEA!") understandable and believable.
I knew, going in, that a Certain Thing was going to happen. Not any details about Said Thing, but that it would happen. And so, about halfway through, I suddenly realized EXACTLY what was going to happen. Not the Why or the How, but I had the Who in hand. In my infinite idiocy, I thought that knowledge would protect me from doing the Luke Skywalker Scream.
It didn't. And I liked that it didn't.
More than anything else—which is saying quite a lot, given that I love the setting and the premise and the characters and the smoochies and the laugh-out-loud bits and the mystery elements and on and and on—I enjoy Rory's voice. She's an American, but she sounds like an American who's been living in England for a while. Not like Madonna (contrived, pretentious, SO ANNOYING), and not like that Anglophile friend of yours from college who came back from a year abroad slinging 'oi's around willy-nilly (I am convinced that everyone has a friend who did that), but like someone who has picked up some of the rhythm of British English purely by being around it 24/7. Like, linguistic osmosis or something. It's less about the actual words that she uses, and more about the way she puts them together, is what I'm saying. And THAT was my favorite thing about the book, even though I loved all of the other stuff, too.
Nada. Except that I now have to wait ages and ages and ages for the next book.
And that I wished there was more Alistair, even though I understood why there wasn't. Oh, Alistair, I love your cranky self.