Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Publication Date: September 29, 2011
Status: First in the Shades of London series.
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers program
Genre: Teen Paranormal, Ghosts
Other Info: Maureen Johnson is also the author of Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and the sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope. For a complete list of her works, please visit her Goodreads page.
Description (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’m a well-established Maureen Johnson fan. I especially enjoy her travel fiction—Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, The Last Little Blue Envelope, and Girl at Sea. I was thrilled to learn that Johnson’s latest book would take place in a boarding school set in London. Talk about a fantasy setting. I practically hit the roof when I won an ARC from LibraryThing. Fortunately, my internal hype over the setting not only lived up to expectations, but so did everything else. The Name of the Star is a fantastic, absorbing, delicious read. I can’t wait for the next installment.
No matter how stellar the setting, it wasn’t the only thing that worked for me. I loved Rory. I totally identified with her, her anglophilia, and the “research” she does before she travels to her new school and new country. She appreciates and notices all the little differences that delight me when I travel to a new country. She’s very much an outsider, by virtue of her analytical mind, and I often felt that her brain cranked in a way that’s very similar to my own. She has none of the annoying, self-effacing behavior that so many teen heroines have these days. She’s the first main character I’ve wanted to hang out with in a while. You know, if she weren’t fictional.
Johnson also creates an enjoyable cast of supporting characters, each of whom has something to offer both Rory, and the story. The only exception to this is her love interest who, while pleasant, can’t hold a candle to the more sober, mysterious Stephen. I’m hoping this is purposeful and that we’re going to be treated with one of those oh so delicious slow burn romances. Please, Maureen, please!
I also want to say that Ms. Johnson did a wonderful job crafting the relationships in The Name of the Star. In addition to insta-love in teen fiction, there’s also a preponderance of insta-best-friendships. I meet new best friends all the time, but they’re not really my best friends. They’re just people I have an immediate connection with. Becoming close with someone takes more time than that, and is rarely (never?) so completely cemented so quickly in real life. Rory’s relationships develop, morph, deepen through the course of the novel, but because of shared experiences, confidences and the passage of time. I loved that.
Finally, there’s the plot. Ms. Johnson totally played me on this score. I was two steps behind the entire time. I’m not generally a fan of Jack the Ripper stories, but I liked the way that Ms. Johnson approached it. Her book isn’t a exploitation of a century old unsolved murder, but an exploration of why it captivated audiences then, and why it continues to captivate now. As far as the supernatural plot goes, that worked for me too. A lot of it strikes me as setup for the rest of the series, but I’m not complaining. Johnson does it skillfully and logically. She ties in loose ends and weaves in seemingly unimportant elements like the master she is.
Frankly, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you find yourself disillusioned by Teen Paranormals, I suggest you pick up The Name of the Star. It’ll remind you why you liked the genre so much to begin with.
5 1/2 Points: I would have this book’s babies.