Book Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

3 Nov
Book cover for The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

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Title:  The Name of the Star

Author: Maureen Johnson

Series: Shades of London, book 1

Genre: Paranormal YA

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Published: September 29, 2011

Summary: 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.

THE NAME OF THE STAR was a gripping and engaging beginning to a new series. It had great amounts of mystery, creepiness, and humor. The characters were great–funny, smart, silly, and courageous. Rory, in particular, was all of these things, although the courageous bit doesn’t show up until the end, but I kind of admired the fact that, up until she really had no choice but to be brave, she was scared and overwhelmed and didn’t try to invite trouble by not following the rules people set for her and the other students at Wexford. It seemed like the most real course of action, like what a real teenage girl would do. It was nice to read about a girl who actually wasn’t always willing from the get-go to endanger herself and who actually felt fear of scary things, as opposed to lots of other paranormal/mystery characters who always seem to be abnormally brave and immune to being afraid. And I loved that this book drew on the Jack the Ripper murders, something that has always fascinated me for many of the same reasons that Rippermania takes over the city of London in this book.

While I enjoyed this book, though, there were a few things that caught my attention in a less-than-positive way. I’ve read Maureen Johnson books, and while I’ve always loved her writing and her sense of humor, some of her secondary characters were a little flat. Charlotte particularly was, I think, meant to be some kind of antagonist, at least for Jazza, Rory’s friend and roommate, but she wound up playing such a minor role that I’m not sure what her purpose was at all. Although I’m not totally sure that Charlotte won’t have something more to do with the Shades in the next book in the series, and possibly after. From what we know of how people become like Rory and the rest of the Shades, how they are able to see the dead, I’m wondering if Charlotte, who appears to almost die at the end, won’t suddenly have that ability as well. Speaking of Jazza–and, while I’m at it, Jerome–they were seemingly main-ish characters in the first half of the book and then, once Rory starts to get more involved with the Shades, they almost totally fall out of the picture. I didn’t like that so much, mostly in Jazza’s case, because I really liked Jazza and I liked her friendship with Rory. Jerome…I seem to have an issue with Maureen Johnson’s male leads. He was ok. He was a little too creepy-obsessed with the murders and it was a little unsettling to see how excited they made him. When they weren’t talking about the murders, he was better. And, for the record, I’m waiting for Stephen and Rory to get together, so let’s hope that happens soon. Oh, and speaking of Stephen, I thought he was a little inconsistent when it came to Rory learning the secrets of being a Shade (how they take care of the ghosts, etc.). He seemed adamant that she NOT find out the details that Callum eventually shared with her, but he had almost no reaction when he realized that she knew anyway. Seemed off. But I liked Stephen, despite his stodginess and seeming lack of humor about, well, everything. He and Rory really seemed to be developing a connection, and I can’t wait to see what comes of it.

The ending was a really interesting twist that has pretty much ensured that I will continue reading this series. All in all, a really great, fast-paced, fun, creepy book that kept me interested and made me eager for the next installment. Here’s to hoping that the nasty in the next books doesn’t have a propensity for monologues like this one did!


4 Responses to “Book Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson”

  1. Lisa! (@heylisarenee) March 30, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    I agree with you (obviously). I liked Charlotte…but I didn’t get her purpose in the story. Perhaps in the next book!



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    […] THE NAME OF THE STAR: My First Review […]

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    […] 26, 2013 from Putnam Juvenile). WHOA. I just saw this on NetGalley and I HAD to request it. THE NAME OF THE STAR was one of the first books I reviewed on my blog and I loved it. I’ve been looking forward to […]

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