Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shelf Life [kids]

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, 372 pages.
An American teen, Rory, arrives in London to attend boarding school just as the city is beginning to experience a rash of gruesome Jack the Ripper copycat murders.  Because the bodies have been found in neighbourhoods close to the school, students worry that the next murder could happen on the campus. Everyone is tense; many students are justifiably terrified.
Rory has the special ability to “see” ghosts and otherworldly beings.  On the night of the next murder - which happens on the school campus - Rory glimpses the escaping killer.  None of the other students see him. Why? He’s a ghost.
Rory is soon contacted by the members of a clandestine British government ghost-policing squad. Joining forces, they search together for the ghostly killer – a revengeful monster who proves to be absolutely ruthless and diabolical.
In the end, it’s the killer who finds and targets Rory in a terrifying conclusion to the story.   
This well-written, thoroughly suspenseful book, with its many twists and turns (and a romance, too), is the first title in Maureen Johnson’s brilliant Shades of London series.

** Recommended for ages 13 to 16 years.

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson, 290 pages.
At the beginning of this book, Johnson’s second Shades of London story, 16-year-old Rory has narrowly escaped the Jack the Ripper copycat killer.  Something has changed for Rory: in addition to her ability to see otherworldly beings, Rory is also now a “terminus” – someone who can annihilate a ghost with a single touch.
Emotionally, Rory is having a difficult time.  She’s still traumatized and trying to recover from her narrow escape from death. She isn’t sure how to deal with her new-found ability as a terminus, and she feels lonely and out of place at her London boarding school. She is confused and anxious about her future.
Then a new string of sinister murders begins in London. Again, Rory can see what few others can.  The boarding school is located over an old psychiatric hospital unit ... are the restless spirits of the former patients stirring underground?  Rory knows that there’s an evil force somewhere close by and that the murders are connected, but she can’t convince the ghost-policing squad (from The Name of the Star) to help her find that connection – until it’s almost too late.
After finishing this gem of a story, which ends ambiguously, readers will be left impatiently awaiting the next Shades of London book.

** Recommended for ages 13 to 16 years.

This review appeared in the Stratford Gazette on March 6, 2014. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian. 

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