It looks like my quest for a good book continues.Stalking Jack the Ripper is just the latest in a line of bad books. I understand that this book was written for a Young Adult audience. However, this book is a prime example of why I avoid Young Adult books. Even when I was a Young Adult, I avoided Young Adult books. I went straight from the Babysitter Club books in the basement of the public library to Anne Rice upstairs. There was never an in-between stage for me. I'm not saying that there isn't good Young Adult literature out there. This just isn't an example of it.
First of all, I think the author could have easily avoided using the Jack the Ripper story line. She could have easily told her story as something separate from Jack the Ripper. If you read her author notes at the end, you'll find she more or less told her story separate from Jack the Ripper. The notes were full of things like "I know this happened like this but it didn't fit my story so I changed it" and "I didn't mention this person, even though they were kind of a big deal because it didn't fit my story". Then tell a different story. Plenty of books exist dealing with the mythology of Jack the Ripper without actually being about Jack the Ripper.
If she would have told this story with different characters it would have been even better. I will preface this by saying I finished Anne Perry's A Breach of Promise right before starting this book. One of my biggest problems with that book was the lecturing about feminism during Victorian England. I don't want to be preached at. I understand that women were poorly treated. I understand sexism still exists. I'm raising three girls. I get it. Anyway. I knew this book wasn't going to be about a Victorian teenage girl who falls into the expected societal roles. The blurb tells you she helps her uncle perform autopsies. That's fine. I have no issues with that. What I do have issue with is a character who has to constantly remind everyone around her (and the reader) that she's not just a stupid girl. However, at the same time, don't tell her she's not a lady. She may like dead bodies but she also really likes pretty things. She's complicated like that. More than solving the mystery of Jack the Ripper, our protagonist Audrey Rose, sets out to answer the question "Can I be taken seriously in the science world if I still wear make up and pretty dresses?" Again, I have zero issues with the feminism at work here. My problem is the way the author continues to hammer it home. I get it. She's unconventional. I get it. She's in a man's world and she has to prove herself. Tell me who Jack the Ripper is already.
The other main character, Thomas, was just as irritating as Audrey Rose. We get it. You like her. You've done everything put push her off the playground swings and pull her hair. The author set out to make Thomas, a younger, more dashing, and significantly more handsome (we are constantly reminded how handsome Thomas is) Sherlock Holmes. It didn't work. Part of the wonder of Sherlock Holmes is how he figures things out first and the reader has to figure out how he figured it out. This kid was trying to be Sherlock Holmes hosting a cooking show. The reader had to be told everything he was doing as he was doing it. Not a fan.
I think it's kind of obvious at this point that this book didn't work for me. Let me assure you, it wasn't just the characters. Again, I realize this was a Young Adult book. I was promised a huge plot twist. I did not get a huge plot twist. I had the "who" figured out about 20 pages in. Spoiler alert, I was right. The "why" was a little bit of a surprise but once I thought about it, the clues were there the whole time. It is possible I was just so annoyed with the main characters, I glossed over a few things. I think it does a little disservice to young adults to assume they can't handle a plot any more complex than what this book offers.
It's safe to say, I won't be picking up any of the other books in this series. It's also safe to say, I won't be recommending any of these books to my girls either.