Book Review: Stalking Jack The Ripper

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3 out of 5 stars

Format: Library Hardback - YA historical fiction - Goodreads Summary:

"Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world."

The world the author created was GORGEOUS! And the layout of the book was also interesting, often included real photographs of London streets, medical mysteries, and Victorian society. It really did well to set the scene and help me visualize as Thomas and Audrey Rose stalked the streets of London. I didn't know much about Jack The Ripper, other than folklore and ghost stories, so I appreciated the attention to historical detail, right down to an appendix where the author noted which parts of history she took liberties with. 

I'm REALLY good at calling plot twists and big reveals (it comes from constantly stewing over how to write my own), so I had a hunch of who "Jack" really was. For younger readers, it may still come as a surprise, but I do think the author could have done a slightly better job at not making it so obvious Audrey Rose was pulling us in the wrong direction. It was too easy and tied up all the mysteries too nicely, and for someone as smart as she is, I wanted Audrey Rose to see it too. 

I also felt the feminist theme was a little heavy handed. Now, anyone who knows me even a little bit knows I'm a huge fan of gender equality. I strongly identify with feminism and its principles. However, Maniscalco magnified it a bit too much (with all the mention of black riding habits and looking "dangerous") so it almost felt cartoonish. I think if she'd pulled back just a bit, it would've felt more like the fight for equality we all experience in real life. 

I wanted to swoon over Thomas SO badly, but I just. couldn't. I'm not even sure what it was about the two of them together (Thomas and Audrey Rose), but I had the hardest time buying into it. Thomas seemed to be SUCH a secondary character, it was hard to get to know him. I mean, he's always there, but the scene is still very much Audrey Rose's scene. He felt more like a sidekick, not a love interest, and not one I knew well enough to root for. I actually wanted her to end up with the police inspector! 

Speaking of exclamation points. I could've done without them. I recall very few happening in dialogue, and exclamation points in narrative just feels strange. TOTALLY a personal preference for me, so I don't fault the author at all. For me, it just added to the magnification of characters which left most of them feeling larger-than-life cartoonish instead of people I might actually encounter in 1888 London. 

Maniscalco's story is incredible, and I can see why hers was the first YA novel to be printed with James Patterson's new publishing company. The bones of the story and the attention to detail were so grabby, it was the perfect book to get me out of my month-long reading slump. I'm looking forward to the sequel where Audrey Rose travels to Romania to study forensic science. Eek!! Can't wait to see what rich settings Maniscalco conjures up for us!