Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Series: Shades of London #1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Target Audience: YA
Genre: Paranormal / thriller
Length: 374 pages

Story: 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.

Thoughts and impressions: I’m all about things Jack the Ripper. Like many people, I share a sort of morbid fascination for these horrible crimes that were committed but never solved. So when this book came on to my radar as something playing with a present day re-enactment of the Ripper murders, I was intrigued. For some reason, though, I wasn’t sold and it took a long time before I gave in to the temptation to buy the book.

Now, though, I can honestly say that I shouldn’t have avoided it for so long. Or maybe it’s a good thing that I did as I’m now much more at ease with YA fiction than I was back when the book was first released. Nevertheless, this book is good! It’s a fascinating view of London’s dead, a gripping thriller that doesn’t lose itself in a soppy romance subplot or get embroiled in (too many) unnecessary details.

I say unnecessary details, but a lot of what I found unnecessary was probably an introduction to British culture. Here’s quite a lot of this, which I can well imagine as being of interest to readers who are not well acquainted with this culture. Being a Brit myself, of course, this isn’t really necessary for me. The author actually did very well at portraying our culture from an outsider point of view but there were a few general slip ups, such as the news on BBC1 being at 7 when really it’s the news at 6, and some vernacular slips, such as British people saying “have gotten” when we conjugate it as “have got”.

There was a little bit of a romance subplot present between Rory and Jerome, another of the students at the East End boarding school. It was fairly transparent that this was going to be built up as of the very first time that we meet Jerome, but I felt that it was well balanced within the context of the story. However, when Rory almost dies, she’s left with the ability to see ghosts and we’re eventually introduced to a number of other characters who also share this ability – one of whom, Stephen, turned out to be a very complex character and showed promise of becoming a potential romantic interest in the future. I certainly liked him better as a character than I did Jerome!

The ghosts themselves made for really enjoyable lore and I really connected with a couple of the dead characters. They were surpassed though by the characters with the ability to see them. Even though they come across as fairly shallow characters upon initial introduction, they all become very well-rounded, damaged people who were fascinating to read about.

Jazza deserves a mention as well. She was so sweet and supportive of Rory in her first few days at the school – the absolute perfect roommate. I loved her feud with Charlotte, the head girl, and how this would push her outside of her comfort zone, often egged on by Rory. I hope that she’ll be back in the next book!

Rory herself made for an interesting and original narrative voice. She’s spunky when it counts, strong when necessary and ready to make sacrifices in order to secure the safety of those she loves. I really enjoyed some of the anecdotes of her life in the Louisiana swamp that she tends to regale the reader with and how she draws parallels between these experiences and those of her new life in London’s East End.

And the ending? It was jaw-droppingly good! It leaves things in such a position that the author could take things just about anywhere in the second book and I’d read it just to find out what this will all mean for Rory. It’s definitely a series to keep your eye on. I’ll certainly be following it!

Style: I have nothing in particular to mention about the style. It was good and it drew me in. What more could I ask for?

Final verdict: I loved it, really enjoyed the book! Why did I avoid it for so long?! 4.5 stars

Extra notes: Some bad language. No sex.


  1. Good to know. Excellent review.

  2. Oh so glad you enjoyed it, I haven't read this one but heard a lot of many great things about it. The characters sound amazing to read about. thanks for the review!

    1. She was the sort of heroine that you see more often in UF?PNR aimed at adults, in my opinion. I liked her! Hope you do too if you read the book!!

  3. OOh fab review!! I have this on my TBR pile having read previous praising reviews! It sounds awesome! I cannot wait to read it! There are wayyy too many awesome reads out there and never enough time to keep up with them all!

    Great review!

    1. I know exactly what you mean! Too many books, too little time! I have that problem all the time!!


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