Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Review: The Name of the Star

Title: The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam
Publication Date: September 29th, 2011
Genre: YA, Paranormal Fantasy

When Rory Deveaux leaves her small town in Louisiana for a boarding school in London’s East End, she expects a bit of homesickness and some culture shock. Never would she have imagined that her arrival in England would coincide with the first of a series of murders mimicking Jack the Ripper. Or that she would find herself in the middle of the mystery. The first murder occurred in exactly the same way as the murder of Mary Ann Nichols in August of 1888. Soon, Rippermania takes hold of the world. When Rory becomes the sole witness for the third murder, she can’t understand why her roommate couldn’t see the man that was right in front of her. When the murderer takes an interest in Rory, she finds herself in direct danger of a madman. Who is the new Jack the Ripper and why is Rory the only one who can see him?

Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star has been getting a lot of hype in the past week, and as a fan of her other books I felt like I had to check this one out. I actually thought this book was going to be historical fiction, sort of like A Great and Terrible Beauty. It wasn’t until I had the book in my hands that I realized it was about a Ripper copycat in modern day London. It turned out to be one of those books that feels like it was written just for me. It had boarding schools, London, some history, likeable characters, suspense, ghosts and great writing. Basically, all of my favourite things in less than 400 pages. I feel like this book is a Paranormal novel for people who don’t usually read or like Paranormal. I liked how Johnson focused on the characters and the setting before jumping into the Paranormal mystery. The beginning of the book wasn’t as quick paced and suspenseful as the majority of the story, but I think it was necessary to build the other important aspects of the book before the plot picked up. The characters were a big part of why I liked this novel. Rory was charming, likeable and very real. Her hometown honestly sounds like the most awesome place in the world. The secondary characters were just as wonderful, especially Jazza, who I would call the perfect roommate. Even though they are polar opposites, I love Boo almost as much as I love Jazza. I enjoyed Johnson’s clever writing; her wit shines through every page. I also love her detailed descriptions of London and I thought Wexford was the perfect setting for this book.

Although this book has been labelled a mystery, I wouldn’t quite call it that since we are introduced to the murderer fairly early on in the story. However, it was still thrilling and suspenseful. I love ghost stories (even though they freak me out) and I thought that the way the paranormal elements of the plot were handled was interesting and original. Initially, I assumed this book was a Paranormal Romance, but it’s not. Although there is some romance, it wasn’t fully developed and I liked how the book wasn’t all about that. Since this is the first part in a series, I think it’s smart to slowly develop relationships over time. At this point, I feel like focusing too much on romance would have just have been a distraction from the gripping plot. I love the premise of the story, since I find Jack the Ripper fascinating. Johnson put a lot research into the history of the Ripper murders, and it showed. The rest of the books in the series will not be related to Jack the Ripper and I think that’s what a lot of people initially found interesting about this book. Despite this, I think the series will still work without that plotline. Johnson’s laid the backbone for an interesting series, and I was actually equally as caught up in the Shades as the Jack the Ripper story line.

With an original and intriguing premise and an amazing protagonist, The Name of the Star was an intense beginning to a promising series. You do not have to be a fan of Maureen Johnson or of Paranormal YA novels to like this book. Who would have thought that the author of 13 Little Blue Envelopes could do creepy so well? The Name of the Star is different from anything else I’ve read by Maureen Johnson, and it was amazing. I’d definitely recommend it, and I’d even go as far to say that it’s one of my favourite YA books of the year.


“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.”

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