Feb 2, 2012

Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Book cover of The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Title: The Name of the Star [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Maureen Johnson [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Book one in the Shades of London series.
Genre: New/Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery
Published: September 29th, 2011 by Putnam Juvenile
Format: Kindle edition.  
Source: Borrowed from my local library.

If Torchwood were more like Ghostbusters it would be:
  1. Significantly better.
  2. Shades of London.
Rory’s grown up in small town Louisiana, her parents are lawyers who also teach, and they have decided to spend a year teaching in Bristol.  Given the choice of where to spend her year, Rory decides to spend it at the Wexford Academy boarding school, in London’s East End.  She hardly expected that her arrival would be marked by a serial killer reenacting the violent murders of Jack the Ripper.  While London is gripped with Rippermania, Rory finds herself the only witness able to identify the murderer.  She must deal with the disbelief and doubts of her friends, the police, and her own sanity while coming to grips with some shocking new knowledge and the reality that the Ripper seems to have chosen her as his prime victim.  

The Name of the Star was my first Maureen Johnson.  Now there’s a couple of ways to get me to read a book:  One, set it in a boarding school, I have a thing for them.  When I was young, I was dying to go to boarding school.  I begged, I cried, I never went, and am living vicariously through teen lit to this day.  See, a friend of mine left our small town to live with her family at a boarding school in Africa where her parents would teach the kids of missionaries.  I was obscenely jealous.  My mom had attended boarding school for high school, so I thought, “Perfect, send me there!”, but she hadn’t loved it as much as I was sure I would, and they said no.  Of course now I understand that your kids are only young once and I would never send my own away and miss that part of their lives, but I couldn’t see that at the time.  Two, set your book in London.  I’m a wee bit of an Anglophile.  Maureen Johnson did both, pretty much guaranteeing I would check this book out.

I wasn’t sure about Rory at first, she seemed nice enough, but she also talked.  A lot.  Personally, I’m usually annoyed by those who are overly loquacious, and Rory felt some southern need to entertain with numerous tangential stories of her crazy relatives back home.  Luckily, we only hear her voice a story and a bit before she quite literally chokes on her words.  Thereafter, her stories are told mostly in text, and I actually quite enjoyed her weird comparisons and connections between her past and the ongoing events.

Rory is strong, smart, and definitely a girl to root for.  I loved her relationships with the others in the book, as they reflected a very real teenage personality.  In particular, I loved her relationship with Jerome because it’s essentially no big deal.  It’s a real teenage relationship.  They crush, they flirt, they let their hormones rage, they do not pledge their undying love forever and ever after five minutes because they are seventeen freaking years old.  I appreciated this greatly, and it let me really like Jerome while simultaneously thinking Rory will be able to move on to other relationships (YES I have someone particular in mind) in the future without a ton of drama or heartache.  I liked the girlfriends, Jazzy and Boo (though those names...really?  I mean one sure, but both of them?), I even like the nemesis, Charlotte...though that’s probably largely because she goes to a costume party dressed as Amy Pond.

Maureen Johnson has very cleverly constructed a situation in which it is feasible to have very young characters doing very badass jobs (see above comment about Torchwood/Ghostbusters).  The Name of the Star is incredibly fast paced, in a unique way that allows for both the characters and the story to unfold and develop equally. Jack the Ripper provided both a terrifying and gripping plot laid over the invention of a new world with countless opportunities for further development.  I personally felt the story unwrapped itself layer by layer to reveal something much more complicated than suggested at first glance.  Besides people, it’s Jack the Ripper!  Who hasn’t been terrified by this man at some point?  The Name of the Star provides an excellent and fresh twist on the Ripper story, while creating its own unique tale.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more: The Madness Underneath is set to release later this year and I cannot wait!  

Recommended for: Fans of Jack the Ripper, those who like paranormal mysteries ala Odd Thomas, people into somewhat ridiculous but awesome off-the-books agencies.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  I was torn between the morbid curiosity of wanting to look up Ripper info (and pics!) and not wanting to have to sleep with a night light on and check behind the shower curtain when I pee.  The pics won out.


  1. I am a little obsessed with London and also Jack the Ripper, have you seen From Hell with Johnny Depp? So good. I had this on my TBR pile but I was wary because it seemed somewhat meh...but I trust your judgement and will be putting a hold on this one ASAP! :]

    1. I hope you like it! I know a lot of other reviewers thought it was pretty middle of the road, but I liked it quite a bit and thought it was above average. I happened to be in London when From Hell was playing (like 10 years ago), so my friends and I watched it and then went on the Jack the Ripper Night Tour. It. Was. Awesome. And totally cheesy, probably a lot like Karou's ex's cheesy vamp tours around Prague.

  2. I won this months ago and it's just been sitting on my shelf. I've heard fantastic things, but I haven't really been into paranormal lately. I'm afraid to read it and dislike it if I'm not in the mood. I have high hopes though! One day soon I shall read it :]

    1. I totally understand the mood thing! I get on kicks where I just can't stomach certain genres. This is a great one for when you're in the right mood though, would be a good stormy day read.


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