The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Release Date: September 29, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult
Parental Warnings: violence; scary plot
Buy It On Amazon:
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.
When Rory Deveaux's parents accept jobs in England, Rory is left with a dilemma. Should she go with them and finish her senior year at a boarding school in London or stay in Louisiana with her eccentric family?Of course, she chooses to go to London. At her boarding school, she encounters a mean head girl with high-reaching ambitions, a likable roommate even grammatically correct when she gossips, and even a few cute boys. The only problem that she has is the fact that she's signed up for field hockey as a goalie!Soon it becomes apparent that her problems are much bigger. When an outbreak of brutal, violent murders captures the attention of all London citizens, a stark truth appears. Somebody is mimicking the awful crimes of Jack the Ripper and leaving more theatrical clues each time.The only difference is that this time, everybody knows exactly when he's going to strike. So how is it that nobody can catch him? That nothing is left at the crime scenes? How could "Jack" be killing all these people when they know how to be safe? Is it that nothing is safe anymore?London is obsessed with Jack the Ripper as the news of the crimes leak. Experts hold panels, talk show hosts are sent mysterious messages and dismembered body parts. People analyze hours of films, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. How have the cameras caught nothing of him?He is an enigma. People are terrified of the unseen, and worried that they or their love ones could be next. Rippermania sweeps the city.When Rory sees a man that nobody else can, lurking outside the dorms, surprised when she talks to him, she becomes more and more suspicious. There's something more going on though: Rory is the next target.There are so many adjectives that I could use to describe this book: eerie, compelling, creepy, thrilling, even charming. I don't know about you, but I tend to associate Maureen Johnson with fluffier, lighter books such as Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and some of her previous books. I thought that I liked those books, but Maureen has outdone herself. I wasn't expecting her to pull out the paranormal card, and it's SO different than what I'm used to with her.This is the only book to which I can apply the adjective "disturbing" and mean it as a compliment.I must admit that before I read this, I knew pretty much nothing about Jack the Ripper. I knew there were horror movies about him, and that the murders happened in London, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I don't know if I'm proud or ashamed to now be able to say that I'm all but expert on him (thanks to Maureen).She managed to convey mystery and creep factor and her trademark charm wrapped up in a scary package. If somebody wrote a book about Jack the Ripper, I would expect it to be historical fiction. I had heard people clawing for this book, desperate to get their hands on it. I saw it in Inkwood, and I wasn't the most excited because I wasn't a huge fan of Maureen before. Her tweets are hilarious but I wanted to see more of a WOW factor in her books. My sister actually picked this out and begged me to review it so that she could read it.When I picked it up, almost immediately I saw the appeal. You could not tear me away from this book. I mean, OH MY GOD. This book was ridiculously amazing! I know that I tend to throw around that adjective loosely (I need a thesaurus!) but if you're a fan of horror, paranormal, or mysteries, this book is heaven on Earth.Rory could be lighthearted. Although she was funny and interesting, she didn't make the book any less creepy. She provided the perfect small touch of comic relief. I liked how she was Southern and witty and her personality was unique (like Maureen herself). This is one of the few books as well that I can say that I liked the plot more than the characters. Rory was amazing, so that should tell you something about the plot.The antagonist was (in my opinion) the most developed character in the book. You could see why he did the things he did and the theatricality of his motions. I was strangely compelled by him. His personality and history made it so that he was engrossing. I couldn't help but be fascinated by him.I don't know why I actually thought this book was simply a thriller. It was probably because the paranormal element was at first introduced so SUBTLY that I only felt the slightest hints of it seeping into the story. By the time that the end rolled around, the story was immersed in it and it just added so much.As we progressed throughout the book, the suspense built and built, leading up to a heart-pounding climax. After I finished it, I wanted to dive under my covers and curl up into the fetal position. It's one of those books that you can't escape from and just leaves you thinking for the rest of the night. I've heard people gush about Anna Dressed in Blood and how it left them up all night, but I think that Maureen has definitely provided competition.This is those books that I just want to gush about, to talk about all the time until everybody refuses to listen. I could go on about this book forever and never get tired.Plus, Maureen's intellect and the entire plot definitely will appeal to adults. While Rory did have a surprisingly authentic voice, adults will love this, especially ones who love a great murder mystery.Overall, The Name of the Star is a terrifyingly addictive story that I couldn't help but be captivated by. Readers will sing praises of Maureen Johnson and this is surely a book to remember.Recommended to anybody who loves: Anna Dressed in Blood; I Am Not a Serial Killer; Hush Hush; mysteries; paranormal; etc,.Possible book club questions:Why do you think crime makes great story fodder?How is this book so different from Maureen's previous novels? Why do you think she chose to write a book so different from her previous ones?How do you think the supernatural element translated to such a gruesome part of history?How does the unseen make people afraid?Why do you think he was so theatrical?etc,.