Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review: The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson

Title: THE NAME OF THE STAR (Shades of London, #1)
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: September 29th, 2011

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.


The short of it: I feel like I wanted to like THE NAME OF THE STAR more than I did. Don't get me wrong I did enjoy it, to an extent, but it wasn't everything I was hoping for. The characters were generally engaging, the small hints of romance were just enough, and the Jack the Ripper aspect was well thought out and researched. Unfortunately one of the main themes of the novel - the obvious ghosts - is what lessened this novels likability for me. 

The semi-long of it: The first half of THE NAME OF THE STAR reads very much like a Contemporary, with Rory moving from another country to attend boarding school in London, making new friends, crushing on a guy, and generally getting used to a whole new way of living. It also seemed a lot stronger than the second, perhaps because the hints towards who the "new" Ripper later in the novel were were all too plain for me. That said, I really did enjoy the Jack the Ripper Has Returned aspect of the book. It was eerie, and most importantly, it was interesting. Some of my favourite parts of the novel were when we were experiencing the attacks through others eyes, and the growing tension as the dates coinciding with the original Ripper murders grew closer.

And then the ghosts came a long. I like ghost stories, I do. I was even reading this in the perfect environment for a ghost story: it was raining, there was thunder. But something was... off. I can't really explain it. Maybe I've been watching too many ghostly television shows lately, but I knew who each ghost was, even before they were revealed. When Rory began to see the ghosts - after an unfortunate choking incident - I wasn't surprised. Then again, that is the whole point of the novel, isn't? With this new ghostly sight, Rory is also exposed to The Shades, an organization founded by persons higher on the pecking order who select those who have come close to death and can now see ghosts. They are, of course, the secret ghost police mentioned in the synopsis. Thus a whole new group of characters is introduced, but at this point I was left wishing the novel would return to how it was: the new girl at the boarding school who can see ghosts, with more focus on the supposed "return" (read: copycat) of Jack the Ripper.

[SPOILER]One thing I will say that surprised me was the actual identity of the "new" Ripper. And no, not that he was the ghost whom Rory had seen hanging around the school in the first few days she was there, but who he was prior to his death. It all made sense, and tied things up neatly with a bit of added thrill at the end.  
I do give props to Maureen Johnson for her writing, and her characters. The writing was easy to read, it flowed well, and in some parts I genuinely laughed. Reading THE NAME OF THE STAR made me want to read other books written by her. All in all, THE NAME OF THE STAR is a book that I would read again, even if it wasn't quite as amazing I thought it would be, and I look forward to reading the rest of the novels in this series.


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