9 Mar 2016

Review - The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star

Author: Maureen Johnson

Rating: 4/5 stars


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.

My thoughts:

I couldn’t have found a better time in my life to read The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. Like… really. There just wouldn’t have been a better time. I have recently moved to London – a couple of weeks ago. In the beginning of the book Rory Deveaux, American teenager, moves to London – and voilá, suddenly I felt I was the protagonist of this novel. Literally, I had a ’what the hell’ moment at every turning of the page, because I lived through all the ’I’m new in London’ experiences described in the first few chapters.

Luckily I wasn’t greeted with news about fresh Ripper murders like Rory was. That would have been way too creepy, astonishing and scary. I didn’t know much about the Ripper before reading this book, but by the time I was finished I was filled in on the details of all the Ripper murders that took place in 1888. It was quite fascinating, reading about these snippets of dark history and visiting some of the related places while doing my sightseeing rounds in the first days I spent here.

The novel worked as a nice cultural guide as well. I would have absorbed several pieces of new information if I hadn’t known that much about London, England or the English people already. I think sitting down with this book provides a wonderful opportunity for anyone to submerge themselves in an imaginary, yet very real London and get goosebumps along the ride.

Giving the media front stage in the story was a fantastic idea. Modern was combined with old, a haunting chain of murders was reimagined and was given a fresh twist – really, the Ripper was the first serial killer whose rampage got a great amount of publicity, but then, in the 19th century, only the newspapers carried the news and it took time till he became widely known. How much time do news need these days to spread? Minutes. Every lunatic can have their five-minute of fame. But what if the lunatic in question wants more? And what if he poses as a world famous murderer? And what if all the hullabaloo is just a decoy?

Maureen Johnson’s writing style is highly enjoyable. I read less YA books nowadays because the protagonists tend to annoy me but it wasn’t the case here at all. Rory reacted to every situation like a normal teenager would, she was reflective, afraid when she had reason to be and level-headed when she has decided about the steps she was going to take in the end. She had some seriously crazy stuff going on around her – we are talking about a paranormal book after all – and I appreciated that she never lost her humour, no matter what happened.

I am very, very glad I chose this book to pick up first once I arrived to England and I’m sure I won’t forget how it felt to read it on the tube whilst heading to discover the city. 

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