Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

ISBN: 0142422053
Published: September 29th, 2011
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Read from August 16th to 26th, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.
Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.


I bought this book when it came out. In fact, I preordered it. I was already following the author on Twitter and had been for a long time. Plus, I had seen her at LeakyCon 2011, and I desperately wanted to read something she had written. When I saw I had an opportunity to preorder the book and get a signed copy, I jumped on it even though I had yet to read anything by her. I didn't even know much about the book at that point, just that it involved Jack the Ripper, and considering creepy things were really off-putting to me at the time, that should have scared me off.

As is usual for me though, I had so many books to read that this one got push to the side until about three years later, and I think that was a good thing for several reasons. As I said before, I used to hate anything even remotely scary. I kept a wide berth. Recently, I've started changing that, and I've been getting into more things that are a bit on the creepy side. I still won't really do full on horror, but things like The Name of the Star have much more appeal to me. I'm not sure how I would have reacted to it if I'd read it earlier than I did.

I want to stay really vague about what this book actually involves because the only things I knew going into it was that it involved an American girl going to boarding school in England and Jack the Ripper was somehow involved. I liked having only that information as I got farther into the story, so I don't want to reveal what exactly is going on with the Jack the Ripper stuff. It's much more fun to keep that a mystery. I did make some correct guesses just from the cover though, and I wonder how many other people will as well. They seem to have changed the cover since the original release, so many people probably won't even get to make the same guesses. The synopsis I listed above also gives it away pretty much, so I'm thankful I didn't read that before I read the book.

Since I don't want to go into too much detail about Jack the Ripper, I'll talk about some other aspects of the book. First of all, I thought there was a great cast of characters. Everyone seemed so unique, and their interactions with each other were amazing in my opinion. I love reading books with vibrant characters, and this book definitely has that.

The concept of Rory being an American at an English boarding school was also a fun one for me. Because she's the main character, you're getting the perspective of England from an American throughout the book, which was very entertaining. I think it helps make things understandable for those outside of England who don't know much about it, but I also think that even English people can appreciate some of the jokes made about the differences between England and America. I really enjoyed it. It was a way to read a book set in England that I'd never really experienced before.

This is also the first in a series, and when I first started reading the book, I was a bit confused by that because I couldn't see how this storyline would keep going on after this book. But now, I think I get it. I won't say much since I don't want to spoil anything, but without looking at what the next book is actually about, I think I have a good idea about what the series as a whole entails. I'm excited to get the next book and find out.

Overall, I think this book was a great first experience with Maureen Johnson's writing for me, and I look forward to reading her other books as well, particularly the rest of this series. I enjoyed it more than I would have thought possible back a few years ago when I bought it, and I'm actually thankful that I held off on reading it.

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