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The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (Thoughts)

October 18, 2011

From the author’s website:
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. 

Right before the release of The Name of the Star, the first few chapters were made available online. I had known that Maureen Johnson had a new book coming out, but after not particularly loving 13 Little Blue Envelopes I wasn’t in any rush to read it. But I decided to give the online chapters a try anyway. I only made it through the prologue and the very short first chapter before deciding I had to pre-order the book. Even with just reading the first 10 pages, all I knew about it was that it was about a girl at a London boarding school and that there was a murderer on the loose.

Yes, that’s the gist of the story, but it still ended up being a much different kind of story than I thought it would be. I had a little trouble getting into it at first, because I had just read two other books that took place at boarding schools, and really? another one? But I wanted to read it before Maureen Johnson comes to town later in the month, so I kept going. Thank goodness I did because, let me tell you, this is a really good book.

Maureen Johnson quickly paints London as a city gripped by Rippermania. People are scared, people are fascinated, basically people are focused on the Ripper. This theme was so pervasive, that as I read on my commute to work, I expected to see newspapers and posters exclaiming Rippermania when I looked up at my stop. And it was a perfect book to read at this time of year, when the air is getting crisper and everyone’s getting ready for the lead up to Halloween. The story took a couple twists and turns that I was not expecting, and a couple that I did see coming but it was satisfying to see how they played out. More than a few times I was literally on the edge of my seat, needing to know what was going to happen next. I was sufficiently creeped out by The Name of the Star, but it should be noted that I am a total lightweight when it comes to scary books & movies.

The one quibble I had with the book was the romantic aspect. It was the same as in 13 Little Blue Envelopes, where I just didn’tget that these two people were suddenly a couple. And being turned on by hearing about Jack the Ripper? That’s a bit weird. I honestly feel that the story wouldn’t have suffered much if the romantic stuff had been taken right out. One thing I liked about it, though, was that the guy did not become Rory’s whole entire world, that her thing with him just one part of her life. It was kind of refreshing.

As soon as I finished I was desperate to find out if it’s going to be part of a series, or at least have a sequel. I was very excited to learn that this is indeed the first book in a series, The Shades of London. Because even though the book ends neatly as a stand alone, it’s definitely the beginning of something fantastic.

My rating: 8.5/10

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 18, 2011 5:14 am

    Turned on by Jack the Ripper? Ew! Ick! Me? I’d be ready to go stay with family far away.

  2. October 18, 2011 6:41 am

    Hm. Did not love 13 Little Blue Envelopes either. And did not love what you said about the romantic aspect. But since you feel the same about both, AND you still like the book – well, maybe I will give it a try!

  3. October 18, 2011 8:12 am

    I’ll be getting this one for sure. I agree that getting turned on by Jack the Ripper is weird even for me but I think I’ll be able to over look it.

  4. October 18, 2011 9:13 am

    Being turned on by Jack the Ripper is weird. It does sounds good though, and overlooking the weird turn on, I do like Jack the Ripper stories.

  5. October 18, 2011 9:56 am

    Maybe I should clarify that it wasn’t Jack the Ripper that turned her on, but Mr Romantic Interest would be telling her about the Ripper and suddenly they’re making out. Kind of confused me, but definitely didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book!

  6. October 18, 2011 5:26 pm

    Aw, a Louisiana girl going to London! That is like my life in college! Except I am not in Jack the Ripper times, and I wasn’t in London. But still, even though I didn’t love the other Maureen Johnson book I read, I am intrigued enough by this plot to want to pick up the book.

  7. October 24, 2011 4:51 am

    I’m hoping to get to this one before Halloween. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it so much!

  8. October 25, 2011 6:33 am

    I think that’s the best of both world, when a book in a series stands on its own but leaves you wanting more of it! I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed it, I’m looking forward tor reading it.

  9. October 27, 2011 12:24 pm

    I’m in the middle of Maureen Johnson’s The Last Little Blue Envelope today and was just thinking that, no matter how much I want to love this author, her books always fall a little short for me. Maybe The Name of the Star will be the one to change my mind? The premises are always great — it’s just that the execution gets muddled up somewhere along the way! This one sounds very good, though.


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