I’ll admit that I have a somewhat morbid fascination with the unsolved mystery that surrounds Jack the Ripper. (I’m no ripperologist, but my personal bucket list does include taking the Jack the Ripper tour in London.) In the past couple of years, there have been a number of YA fiction books published that revolve around the unknown serial killer. Last year, I was lucky enough to read Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star, in which someone is recreating the crimes of the Ripper. (It’s an absolutely fantastic read, and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel, The Madness Underneath, which will be released on February 26th.) Several days ago, I started reading Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves. I first heard about this book from the author herself. She presented information about her book at the annual SCASL (South Carolina Association of School Librarians) conference earlier this year. I was enthralled by her research process and the little details that went into the making of Ripper. I meant to read the book as soon as I could get my hands on it, but one thing or another inevitably got in the way, and I didn’t make the time to really get into this book until a few days ago (when I got out of school for winter break). Now, I’ll go ahead and tell you (if you didn’t already know) that historical fiction is not exactly my cup of tea…unless it happens to take place in London. There’s just something about that city that totally captivates me, and Ripper only added to my obsession…
The year is 1888, and a young girl, recently orphaned, has moved to London to live with her strict, unyielding grandmother. Arabella Sharp is not exactly a typical Kensington lady…much to her grandmother’s chagrin. Abbie would much rather be doing something interesting rather that sitting around all day waiting for her grandmother to select a suitable husband for her. Unexpectedly, Abbie receives an invitation to work at Whitechapel Hospital, assisting a doctor and family friend with the care of poor women (mostly prostitutes) and their children. Even though the work is most unpleasant at times, Abbie feels drawn to the medical field and is considering doing something totally unheard of–applying to attend medical school.
While Abbie is learning much at Whitechapel Hospital–and dealing with rather puzzling feelings for not one but two young physicians–something more sinister is occurring nearby. Prostitutes, all of them former patients at the hospital, are being murdered. No one seems to know anything about the culprit, but his heinous crimes soon earn him the nickname Jack the Ripper. All of London, specifically the rundown area of Whitechapel, is in an uproar. Who is this killer? Why is he targeting prostitutes? And why can the police find no trace of him?
Abbie, much to her dismay, may be in possession of answers to these questions. Ever since she first entered the Whitechapel area, she’s been plagued by visions. Visions of the Ripper’s crimes as they are committed. She’s seen what he does to his victims. She’s felt his breath on her neck. She knows that he’s somehow got his eye on her. But why? And what is his connection to the hospital where she feels so needed?
As Abbie does all that she can to uncover the mystery of the Ripper, she uncovers something that she is totally unprepared for. Jack the Ripper is not the only being wreaking havoc on London. Something much bigger may be at work, and the Ripper might just be one small piece of the puzzle. Can Abbie unveil the truth before she’s lost to a power that spans centuries? Before she–or someone close to her–becomes the Ripper’s next victim? Read Ripper, Amy Carol Reeves’ gripping tale, to reveal the horrible, hidden truth about the world’s most infamous serial killer.
I wasn’t quite prepared for the supernatural twist at the end of this book. (I liked it, but it was a bit surprising.) Ripper isn’t simply a retelling of the crimes of Jack the Ripper. It does contain lots of information based on actual events, locations, and people, but this is most definitely a fictional account of what could have happened during that horrible time in 1888…if you believe in the strange and supernatural, that is. (I’m not saying that I do, but it is kind of fun to read about.) Amy Carol Reeves detailed what was and wasn’t factual in her book when she spoke at the SCASL conference, but I must confess that I can’t remember everything. (It was in March, after all.) I will, however, get the opportunity to go over this information with her again, as she is speaking at the conference again this year. (And I get to facilitate a panel with her and several other YA authors. Hooray for me!) I also look forward to talking with her about the next book in this series, Renegade, which is due out in April of 2013.
If you’d like more information about Ripper and author Amy Carol Reeves, I encourage you to visit the author’s website. For those of you searching for information on Jack the Ripper, there are thousands of websites that contain loads of information, many of them saying different things. Theories abound on the true identity of this killer, so it’s no surprise that this enigma has found its way to YA fiction. If you can recommend any other YA Ripper books, let me know, and I’ll add them to my towering to-read pile!