Saturday, July 13, 2013

Novel Review: The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1) by Maureen Johnson

Rating (Out of 5): ~4
Genre: YA Supernatural Suspense
Publisher: Penguin (Putnam)
Publish Date: September, 2011
Spoilers?: No/Very Minor.

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

Something Specific:

  • "'You don’t say much, do you?’ Jerome asked me. No one in my entire life had ever said this about me. ‘You don’t know me yet,’ I said.” (Hardback, pg. 33) That has been said about me so many times. And yet the second part is true, as well.
  •  "I’d built up an illusion in this room with Jazza—an illusion that this was home, that I understood the rules here. Boo, quite accidentally, made me remember that I understood very little, and at any moment, the rules could change.” (Hardback, pg. 153)
  •  "It’s not that I am extremely brave—I think I just forgot myself for a minute. Maybe that’s what bravery is. You forget you’re in trouble when you see someone else in danger. Or maybe there is a limit to how afraid you can get, and I’d hit it.” (Hardback, pg. 308)

The Cover:

 I really like the original cover, the one above, and on the hardcover. It has the misty figure, I like the way the girl looks, the colors are good. The new cover, though, I'm not a big fan of. Generally it's just not pretty to me, it's a bit drab; I don't like the whole mist effect, even if I suppose it works for the book, as does the background. Then there's the UK cover, which I think it very pretty; the font, the way the girl looks with the blending of the city. I still think the original American cover is my favorite, though.


I got this book when it was first released, and then also pre-ordered the second book, and yet still hadn’t read this one. I’m not sure why, exactly; I’m a rather big fan of Johnson, but for some reason this book didn’t catch my interest very well. It’s a little out of my normal genres, I guess, so it took me a while, even though I was sure that I would like it.
And I did like it, quite a lot; even more than I thought I would. I really should have read it sooner.
When I started this, I didn’t really read much of the synopsis, mainly because I wanted it to be a surprise. And while I’d heard the gist of what the book was about (Jack the Ripper, London, Mystery, Boarding School), I forgot about the supernatural element. So it was a little weird to think it was contemporary (although at first I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be historical, given Jack the Ripper, and was rather happy when I found out that it was, in fact, contemporary) and then for ghosts to start showing up. I guess, in a way, I got to feel some of that new surprise with Rory, though.
Rory, the main character, moves from Louisiana to London, because her parents are working in Bristol, so Rory decides that she wants to go to boarding school in London. She meets some new friends there, but at the same time, Jack the Ripper-esque murders have started happening, and then a new girl transfers to the school, and then Rory starts seeing these people that aren’t there…
I liked Rory. I generally always like Johnson’s heroines; they have the quirky humor that she has, which is always a highlight. Rory is struggling some with the new school, with all this tougher homework than she’s used to, and now with being able to see ghosts. But she didn’t seem weak to me, nor did she seem particularly strong. I generally just liked her, and am looking forward to getting to know her better in the future.
Then there’s the other characters, all of whom seemed to have very different personalities and characteristics, and who I’m looking forward to getting to know more later. There’s Jazza, Rory’s roommate, who’s a bit orderly and likes following the rules, and sweet and honest, and just nice. There’s Jerome, who wants to be a journalist, and who has a bit of a making-out thing with Rory, although they haven’t discussed anything with each other; he’s also nice and sweet, and honest, and curious. Boo, Rory and Jazza’s other roommate (temporarily, I believe), who is sporty and fun and kind. We meet a lot of other characters, too, and one thing that I especially like about Johnson’s writing, is that she knows how to make characters different from each other, and make them rounded. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the others, though, and hopefully I’ll see more of them all, get to know them even better, in the next book.
The mystery/suspense aspect of the book was done rather well. It was pretty obvious from the beginning, when you first met the killer, who it was, but there was still a lot of tension and suspense while Rory found out who it was, and while everyone was waiting for the specific dates for him to strike. The supernatural elements were also done well, and I look forward to seeing how they expand and are explored in the next book, as Rory gets used to it, and uses it.
I was expecting the Jack the Ripper mystery to continue on to the next book, but I’m okay with it ending the way it did. I was also expecting Rory’s friends to find out about the ghosts, and was really surprised that they didn’t. I realize that they make a nice contrast, her ordinary friends from school to her new friends who can also see ghosts, but I’m kind of hoping that they find out in the next book. I want them to know, and for Rory to be able to talk to them about it. I also hadn’t expected Rory to meet friends in the police who can see ghosts, but am rather pleased with how that worked out.
The boarding school was nice; I liked how it was set up, but boarding school is also just a neat thing and a fun setting in books (particularly because I’ve never been to one—maybe I’d feel differently if I had). 
This was a really good opening to the series, introduced a lot of things and characters, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where the story is taken from here, where all of these characters and elements go in the next book. I already have the second book, as I said, so I plan to start it immediately; part of me also wants to wait, because I know it’s going to be next year that the third book comes out, but I’ve already decided not to wait.

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