Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Review: The Name of The Star by Maureen Johnson

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.

A word of advice, don’t read this book at night, when you’re all alone… Because a) you won’t be able to stop reading until you’ve finished the book and b) you won’t sleep until it’s light.
Because it’s terrifying. Actually it’s equal parts genius humour, high terror and paranormal fantasy, and it’s fabulous.

This has been one of those books that has been on my to read list ever since Maureen Johnson announced it. I didn’t even need anything else to recommend it to me. Of course then I read the blurb and saw that gorgeous cover and I was desperate to get my mitts on it.

The main character, Rory is brilliant. She’s funny, smart, and actually useful! I dislike heroines that can’t find their way out of a paper bag, but Rory has courage by the bucket-load, and scathing comments for any situation!

I have to admit I found the explanations of the English School system a little out of place, but that was just me personally because I’m English and know the system through and through. For people who aren’t familiar with the system, it immediately offers an in to the situation – I just wish there was something similar for Brits reading books set in American schools.
I did love Rory’s views and insights into the stereotypical British boarding school – complete with hockey no matter the weather. It made me laugh out loud over some of the commentary.

I felt like some of the characters were a little bit glossed over – Rory, Boo and Jazza are brilliantly realistic, but I wasn’t convinced by some of the boys. I just wanted a bit more to make them seem real for me – but hopefully we might get some more of that in the next book.

I loved all the different elements of the book, starting off as American girl coming over to English boarding school in London, moving into the terrifying Ripper phase, and then coming round into the supernatural element. Each part complemented the next perfectly, and everything fits together seamlessly.

I also loved spotting little bits – like Cousin Diane who has statues of angels in her backyard, which spring directly from Johnson and following her on Twitter. It’s little bits like that that you read and go ‘yeah I know a little bit about that’ and it gives you an extra chuckle – like the Maureen in Cassie Clare’s book ‘City of Fallen Angels’ and Jace appearing in Holly Black’s ‘Red Glove’. For me that just makes it even more awesome – it’s a little cupcake for twitter followers and general obsessors…

Johnson's writing is brilliant, she draws you into the narrative and wraps you up completely in her tale. Whilst most of the book is from Rory's point of view, there are a few parts where you get extra moments around the murders by the Ripper, that just add a little more insight into what's happening outside around Rory. The whole thing is absolutely terrifyingly once the murders really get going and the ripper mania takes hold completely, juxtaposed against the complete normalcy of the boarding school life. And it's brilliant.

All told this was a really good book – I haven’t been completely sold on some of Maureen Johnson’s books in the past, but this is pitch perfect and exactly what I wanted. Just the right amount of English boarding school, paranormal terror and so much potential for expansion in the following books.
I just need to make sure not to read the next one at night…


  1. Love little random things popping up in books too! I really have to read this....And something most people won't read at night? I must get hold of this. As in, right now. Great review!

  2. I want this book now!! It sounds creepy, intriguing, and full of suspense which I like in a book. Awesome review. :)