Written by Kerri Maniscalco
Expected publication: September 20th 2016 by Jimmy Patterson (imprint of Little, Brown)
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Presented by James Patterson’s new children’s imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion…
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 story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.
STALKING JACK THE RIPPER was named 1 of 5 2016 BEA Young Adult Buzz Books, and I believe this was a well-deserved honor.
First off, how amazing is that title? I would have bought this book based on that alone.
From the first paragraph, Kerri Maniscalco transports us to another time period, and she keeps us here seamlessly for the rest of the book. Each word choice firmly roots us in 1888, yet her story is so modern because of her wonderful protagonist, Audrey Rose. I love that Audrey wants an education + career and is a STEM girl before her time. Kerri does an excellent job of providing the backstory necessary to explain Audrey’s motivations, and I was rooting for her from the start.
I also love that despite Audrey’s fascination with science, cadavers, and murders, she still loves girly things like pretty dresses and gossiping. It was refreshing to have a character in the middle of the spectrum. She enjoyed a small dose of the prim and proper role she was expected to embrace, but was still extremely ahead of her time and sought a career, fought arranged marriages, and snuck out behind her father’s back. Audrey is a girl after my own heart.
For the geeky MIT girl inside me, the science theme throughout this book was a breath of fresh air. I love that not only did Kerri talk about science and anatomy directly, but she also used it in metaphors throughout (e.g. to show Audrey’s breathlessness and disorientation in one scene, Kerri likens this to losing a rib).
Kerri did a fabulous job with the cadaver scenes. As someone who has experience with this from my past life, I thought she expertly breathed life (pun intended) into these scenes with the proper medical terms, scents, and emotions, all while giving us plenty of intrigue and suspense to keep the pages turning.
Audrey Rose speaks about how it’s imperative to separate emotion in order to investigate murder, perform autopsies, and be a surgeon. This hit close to home for me as a (former) dentist, and I felt that Kerri understood this side of medicine well.
The writing was beautiful: very lyrical prose, especially for a commercial novel. Somehow, Kerri managed to give us literary writing without slowing down the pace—quite an achievement! There were so many beautifully worded sentences that I made myself stop to appreciate (which wasn’t easy given the high amount of mystery throughout).
The story was well-paced, the setting engaging, and the characters likeable (even the eccentric uncle). I was a fan of Thomas and missed him when he was absent from scenes. I enjoyed his intelligence and odd, automaton-like ways mixed with a hint of arrogance and boyishness. His sarcasm made me laugh on more than one occasion, and I loved that even though the reader knew him, he still maintained a shroud of mystery to us and Audrey. He was a main character, yet also a question mark.
Kerri is a master of chapter endings. She often ended them at the start of an explosive scene (e.g. when a character has just shown up) or with a hint at what’s to come (e.g. the reader knows Audrey is about to confront someone).
I don’t want to to discuss too much else for fear of spoilers. I will limit my comments to this: the ending was satisfying and well-done. I admire Kerri for her ability to take facts about Jack the Ripper and weave this beautiful, fleshed-out story, creating her own world out of a historical mystery that has haunted and intrigued people for over a century.
Long story short: a suspenseful, beautifully-written, atmospheric tale I highly recommend!
For those interested, the other 2016 BEA YA Buzz Books are:
CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber (I was especially sad that I didn’t nab this one at BEA. I was also very sad to have missed Jennifer Niven’s HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE.)
RANI PATEL IN FULL EFFECT by Sonia Patel
THIEVING WEASELS by Billy Taylor
SPONTANEOUS by Aaron Starmer
Up Next: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti!