Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Sunday, March 31, 2013 10:00 AM
Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Published: September 19, 2011
Publisher: Speak
Series: Shades of London #1
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Pages: 372
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“Keep calm and carry on.
Also, stay in and hide because the Ripper is coming.”
― Maureen Johnson, The Name of the Star

Synopsis
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. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
I have been putting off reading The Name of the Star for far too long. For some reason, I have this morbid fascination with Jack the Ripper (probably because it's still an unsolved case after more than a century has passed), and I was beyond excited to begin the Shades of London series. The Name of the Star was a captivating read that had me entranced from the start, and I could tell Maureen Johnson had done her research. Btw, I also did a bit of investigative research before diving into this book. If you didn't already know, I'm kind of a nerd and enjoy research projects. So anywho, I did some serious digging into the old case files of the Ripper murders before reading The Name of the Star. In other words, I went on Wikipedia. And I'm happy to say that the information presented in this book matched up with my findings. Go Johnson!

The first half of The Name of the Star had me hook, line and sinker. I know I say this so much, but I literally could not put this book down once I started reading. There was a creepy factor that I was a huge fan of. The suspense was killing me, and I couldn't wrap my head around this murderer who could only be seen by Rory. This new Ripper was following in the footsteps of the old one, and I loved how the tension built while people waited for history to repeat itself in the most gruesome way imaginable. The fact that all of London suspected when and where these murders would happen before they even occurred was probably the most terrifying aspect of all. Everyone guessed that the new Ripper's crimes would mirror the old Ripper's, but they still couldn't prevent these killings, no matter how hard they tried.

Reading about Rory's experiences at Wexford, the boarding school she attended in London, actually made me feel nostalgic for my college days. When Rory described her dorm room and the time she spent with her roommate, I couldn't help but long for those college years and my dorm. I was even jealous of Rory's classes and homework; that's how much of a nerd I am. Johnson really brought Wexford to life with her detailed descriptions, and I loved this school and its quirky characters and its evil Saturday classes (obviously, Wexford is the devil incarnate).

Then there's Rory. Rory has to be one of my favorite narrators of all time. I LOVE her! She is so amazingly sarcastic and snarky, and I laughed out loud at so many of her comments. For example,
“I decided to deflect her attitude by giving a long, Southern answer. I come from people who know how to draw things out. Annoy a Southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death.”
“The English play hockey in any weather. Thunder, lightening, plague of locusts...nothing can stop the hockey. Do not fight the hockey, for the hockey will win.”
She kinda reminded me of Jessica Darling, another narrator who is absolutely hilarious. Her crazy Louisiana family made for some hysterical stories. I really connected with her, seeing as I also majorly fail at all sports and am far from a "delicate" eater. I can't imagine anyone not liking her, and I loved the camaraderie between her and her roommate Jazza. So many YA books concentrate solely on the romance, and it was so refreshing to witness this friendship grow into something long-lasting. There is a tiny bit of romance. Very little. I have to say that while I liked Jerome and found his shy approach adorable, the relationship between Rory and Jerome did feel somewhat forced. Not to mention, they didn't talk so much as make out. And the one scene where a string of saliva hangs between their mouths after they're done kissing was just unnecessary.

While I loved the first half of tThe Name of the Star, I can't say the same about the second half. Unfortunately, I felt like the second half of the book lost some of its appeal. It's not only that it was a slower read, but it felt like I had started an entirely new book. Wexford life and Rory's new friends Jazza and Jerome were suddenly replaced by this secret London police force, and there were so many revelations and secrets revealed. While I was definitely intrigued and eager to learn more, I almost felt cheated when previous elements that I had enjoyed were just ripped out the picture in order to unfold this paranormal twist. I wanted more of a balance between Rory's life at Wexford and her newly discovered abilities. After spending so much time with Jazza and Jerome, it just felt unnatural when they disappeared from the story and didn't reappear until the ending.

Despite a couple of misgivings, I'm curious to see where this story goes next, especially after a plot twist at the end. The Madness Underneath is already sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be cracked open, and hopefully I will get to it soon.



6 comments:

  1. It's always a disappointment when the second half seems to lag, but I find that format to be much more readable than going in with a slow first half since sometimes, I barely make it through. After the first half of a book, I always see it through to the end, so I'm curious to start this one now. I've been putting it off for awhile as well and with mixed reviews on the sequel, I've been on the fence about picking this up, but it seems like I'm really missing out. Rory, especially, seems like the ideal heroine. Great review, Courtney! I hope you enjoy the sequel!(:

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    1. Thanks Keertana! I agree completely! If the first half is slower instead, it might be.a DNF. I'm glad I read this one and I hope you enjoy it when you find the chance to read it too. :)

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  2. I sorta liked this one. The first part had more intrigue but too much coming of age for me. Great review!

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    1. Yeah, I definitely see where you're coming from there. Hopefully the sequel is better. Thanks!

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  3. That's too bad that you felt such a disconnect between the first and second halves of the novel; I know that's always a frustrating experience for me as a reader. It does sound overall, however, that you really enjoyed The Name of the Star. And no surprise there - this totally sounds like your type of book! I am definitely intrigued by this series, but I'm not sure if it's really a "me" book.

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    1. I'm not sure if it's your type of book either. It might freak you out, especially since you said you're not big on serial killer books. But maybe one day you'll give it a try. Who knows? :D

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