Let’s do a little word problem. Step 1: I loved The Name of the Star. Step 2: The Name of the Star has paranormal elements. Step 3: I usually can’t stand paranormal fiction. Step X*h&3: SYSTEM ERROR. Please restart and try again.
It turns out that if said paranormal is written by Maureen Johnson, I will read it and LIKE IT. Of course, I knew I liked MJ. She’s pure gold on twitter and an A+ funny, intelligent person. I’m very happy to report that her book impressed me as much as her persona. The Name of the Star is a winner.
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 Name of the Star is part mystery, part horror, part budding romance, part travel and cultural adventure, and all parts engrossing and wonderful. Rory – funny, self-deprecating Rory – has a great character voice, and is a little crazy in a good way, along with being brave, loyal, and in for more than she ever expected.
The plot is fantastic, in particular because it draws on the real fears and tendencies of that great mob we call humanity. Highlighted themes: reliance on surveillance, the process of denial, mental breakdowns, ostracism, and family connections. The story leaps away from the expected, only to merge back in with normality so seamlessly that you may find yourself looking over your shoulder and inspecting the security cameras, just in case Johnson knows more about ghosts than she’s letting on. Maybe it’s the time of year, but the Jack-the-Ripper storyline is creepy and all sorts of dark and delicious.
Speaking strictly on a superficial level (and I NEVER do that… what?!), I think the UK cover beats the US cover hands down. Comments if you agree/disagree. Also: if you’d like to win a copy (of either version), remember to enter my giveaway! Ends November 1.
The Name of the Star is a do-not-miss is you’ve ever read and liked young adult literature, Maureen Johnson, horror and humor intermingled, or actually just if you’re alive. Guaranteed fun with spooky shenanigans on the side. Also: compulsively readable. Make that a WARNING: you won't be able or want to put the book down.
Recommended for: you. It’s young adult, yes, and it’s reeeeeallly good at what it does.