The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Release Date: September 2011
Pages: 372 pages
Source & Format: Library; Kindle e-book
Series: Shades of London #1
Amazon | Goodreads
Sum It Up
Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux is headed to a boarding school in London. Her main concern? Whether or not she'll fit in!
Little does she know, she's headed in to a city suffering from "Rippermania." A killer is running around the city mimicking the Jack the Ripper murders of more than a century ago.
By Its Cover: Too Busy
I'm not a fan of this cover. First of all, the book takes place in London but the image in the background evokes more of an English manor in the country in my mind. I'm totally fine with the ghosty Ripper character, but don't really like the redhead just laying there. I think the girl is supposed to represent one of the people murdered in the book, but at first I thought it was supposed to be Rory. I don't think the three images blend together very well - it's just too busy!
Amen, Sister Friend: Southern Girl
As a Southern myself, I really liked some of Rory's musings on what it means to be a Southern and how she responds in a new city. I also really enjoyed her interactions with her roommate. However, writing this review a week after reading it, I'm realizing I can't remember any defining characteristics about Rory. She was sweet, but she hasn't really stuck in my head.
This book isn't really a character-driven novel - it's all about the plot. That doesn't mean the characters are flat, just that they weren't entirely memorable. But I loved the plot so the slightly bland characters didn't really bother me!
Literary Love: More about Kissing Than Relationship
There's a little romance in this book, but it's basically just the "sometimes we make out" variety. This book didn't really focus on the romantic relationship, even though Rory does have a love interest in it. This kind of goes back to what I said about the characters. It's all about plot in this one.
Word Nerd: The Plot Won Me Over
Finally, let's talk about the plot! Oh my goodness, I devoured this book. I also read it late at night and completely freaked myself out. In modern-day London, a killer is re-creating the Jack the Ripper murders. And, guys, it was totally scary. I know a little bit about Jack the Ripper, but not a lot. I feel much more knowledgeable about him now though because Johnson included so many interesting facts throughout the book. I loved getting a mini-history lesson without it being dry and boring.
The suspense in this book, at least for me, was palpable. I was so nervous for Rory! It took a while for it to really build up, but once it did I wasn't able to put the book down.
Details about Rory's life at Wexford Academy were interwoven with this whole murder mystery aspect, and I really enjoyed it. I was also surprised by the paranormal element to this book. I wasn't expecting it, but I found it really interesting. I'm not usually a huge fan of paranormal, but I was totally into the whole ghost story aspect of the book.
It's suspenseful, but it's also funny. It's not all dark and eerie, and I was thankful for the times when the mood was lightened a little bit. I also appreciated all the detail that went into the setting. Johnson takes the time to familiarize you with the world around Rory, which made the crime spree all the more thrilling.
Extra, Extra: Jack the Ripper
Okay, I have a confession: I really love documentary-type shows about murder investigations. Even though they make me super paranoid, I just can't turn them off. This book was kind of like one of those TV shows for me. The story of Jack the Ripper and the details about the gruesome murders he committed were scary but made for a really interesting read.
"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."
“Fear can’t hurt you,” she said. “When it washes over you, give it no power. It’s a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you.”
Bottom Line: Great Rainy Day Read
I don't think I've ever read another book quite like this, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. I was totally swept up by the Rippermania, and I loved the suspense leading up to the revelation about the killer. This is a book that almost defies genre: it's a modern-day book with lots of history thrown in, a thrilling mystery and a ghost story to boot. I really enjoyed it, despite a few flaws, and think it would make a great rainy day read!