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I Belong

Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star

Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA Paranormal

Series: Shades of London (Book 1)

Publication Date: September 29, 2011

Format: Hardcover, 372 Pages

ISBN-10: 0399256601 (Penguin/Putnam)

ISBN-13:  978-0399256608 (Penguin/Putnam)

Reviewed by: Emmy


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.

Quick & Dirty: This book is combines boarding school drama and serial killer mayhem to create the perfect ghost story.

Opening Sentence: The eyes of London were watching Claire Jenkins.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

I’ve read all Maureen Johnson’s other books and I liked them, but I wasn’t a fan.  I absolutely fell in love with this book.  I don’t know if it’s that I connected with the heroine more, who’s from a suburb of New Orleans, where I live.  It could just be that I’m a bigger fan of murder mysteries than I am of high school romances. This book absolutely blew me away.  It’s funny just as much as it’s terrifying. There’s a copy cat killer out slicing and dicing his victims, but Johnson makes sure you have something to laugh about every other page.

I loved Rory. She’s snarky, smart, and independent.  Everything I look for in a heroine. When she moves to London for her senior year of high school she has to adapt to the English way of life, which involves a lot of late night studying and tea with her roommate Jazza. With the exception of hockey (field hockey; that is) Rory begins to like living at Wexford.

But then she sees a man at the crime scene of the newest Jack the Ripper murder. A man no one saw but her. These murders are as exact as they can be; when they’re occurring more than a century later. Quickly, Rory finds London’s secret police, called the Shades. Every member has come close to death. They can all see ghosts. As Rippermania takes a hold of London, the Shades are searching for the copy cat. Stephen is hesitant to involve her in a classified assignment, but as the only one who’s seen the prime suspect Rory finds herself directly in the middle.  Rory saw his face, spoke to him, and can identify him. The Shades are worried about what he’ll do if he finds her.

The first half of this book is very much about character development. A lot of the boarding school drama borders on cliché–high school girl drama, making out in the library and that sort of thing.  But Rory’s such a great narrator that even these passages, which should have been boring, made me laugh out loud. There’s Jerome, the Ripper-obsessed perfect boy that Rory crushes on, who’s funny and adventurous and easily lovable.  Jerome is the character that gives Rory, and thus us, pretty much everything we need to know about the Ripper murders–both 1888’s and now. It’s clear in these passages, just as it is when Johnson talks about East London, that she’s done her homework.

I loved the plot of this book. I was curious to see how Jack the Ripper was going to be transformed into a fresh, new read and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s got really great pacing.  Never did I feel rushed or did the story become boring–I was always turning pages.  I loved the fact that the author didn’t beat us over the head with the answers, which ends up happening in a lot of young adult mysteries. I can’t wait to read the next installment, The Madness Underneath!

Notable Scene:

Some other facts I picked up:

Welsh is an actual, currently used language and our next-door neighbors Angela and Gaenor spoke it. It sounds like Wizard.

Baked beans are very popular in England. For breakfast. On toast. On baked potatoes. They can’t get enough.

“American History” is not a subject everywhere.

England and Britain and the United Kingdom are not the same thing.  England is the country. Britain is the island containing England and Scotland. The United Kingdom is the formal designation of England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland as a political entity. If you mess this up, you will be corrected. Repeatedly.

The English will play hockey in any weather. Thunder, Lightning, plague of locusts…nothing can stop the hockey. Do not fight the hockey, for the hockey will win.

Jack the Ripper struck the second time very early on September 8th, 1888.

The Shades of London Series:

1.  The Name of the Star

2. The Madness Underneath

FTC Advisory: Penguin Teen provided me with a copy of The Name of the Star.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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3 Responses to “Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

  1. Melanie @thedailyprohecyNo Gravatar

    I’m very anxious to read this book and after reading your review, I really can’t wait! I always love independent heroins :)

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  2. TheresaNo Gravatar

    Great review! I’m dying to get my hands on this book and can’t wait to read it!

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  3. SamanthaNo Gravatar

    I loved this one when I read it as well! I CANNOT wait to read the 2nd book…I don’t know how I’m supposed to wait so long for it :) I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it as much as I did! Great review!

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