Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: Name of the Star (First in Shades of London Trilogy)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Imprint of Penguin)
First Published: September 2011
Format and Number of Pages: Hardcover, 372

On the day that Rory Deveaux moves from her small Louisiana town to London a person is murdered in the exact same fashion as Jack the Ripper's first victim all the way back in 1888.  Rory's new boarding school happens to be at the centre of Jack's old hunting grounds and Rory finds herself caught up in the Rippermania that quickly takes over the entire country. All Rory wants is to fit in at her new school in a new country but this seems to become impossible when she becomes the only witness to the possible Ripper copy-cat.  No one else has seen him, not even her roommate who was right next to Rory when she did.

Maureen Johnson's writing is awesome. Rory is the main character and narrator of the story and she is absolutely perfect.  She is funny and witty in an easy, conversational way.  Her narration allows the reader to understand her and to get a good sense of her character without it seeming forced.  Rory's comments and little stories had me laughing out loud at times.  Her struggles with fitting in at a new school and culture made her easy to relate to as well.  I also loved Rory's roommate Jazza and their relationship.  Jazza is a well developed character with her own background and problems that we get a sense of throughout the book.  It was great to watch Rory and Jazza together and to see them grow closer as the story progressed.  I liked Boo as well, she offered a nice contrast to Jazza's character and it was interesting to see Rory's relationship with her and how her opinion of Boo changed throughout the book.  There were numerous side characters I liked as well and I hope to see more of them in the next book.

There is a romance that develops but it never felt like the main part of the story.  It could have been taken out of the story all together and I don't think I would have missed it much.  The romance wasn't too developed and it never seemed to be that serious.  Though I got the sense that Rory didn't take the relationship that seriously either as it was never her first priority for very long.  I found it refreshing to see a romance in a young adult book that was just a fun, light relationship rather than something ultra-romantic and melodramatic that seems to be more commonplace.

Maureen Johnson did an excellent job in describing London and Rory's boarding school.  I was able to get a really good sense of what the city is like and how London's old history and Rippermania effected the nature and atmosphere of the city.  I have a very strong urge to visit London now thanks to this book.  I think a lot of my enjoyment while reading this book came from the setting of London as Johnson described it.

The book was fairly fast paced and there was a nice balance between Rory trying to cope with her new life and the Rippermania aspect.  The mystery of who the Ripper was and why they were committing these murders kept me intrigued and I read through the book pretty quickly because I wanted to know what was going on.  I was never really surprised by any of the twists that happen in the book, so it was a bit predictable for me.  Overall I highly enjoyed this book.  The ending left me wanting to pick up the next book ASAP and I can't wait to finish the series.  I would highly recommend this for anyone who loves mysteries, urban fantasy or paranormal or anyone who just loves to read about London and Jack the Ripper.

Rating: 4/5

If you've read The Name of the Star and loved it, the second book in the Shades of London Trilogy, The Madness Underneath, is already available.

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