By: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (a division of Penguin Young Readers Group)
Copyright Date: 2011
Format: Hardcover fiction, 372 pgs
Reason for Reading Disclosure: Browsing at Barnes and Noble and noticed this as a YA recommended book.
An American teenager in London. A Jack the Ripper copycat killer. Boarding school. So much to love.
Let’s get this out of the way right now. The Name of the Star is a little bit predictable. Rory Deveaux, our heroine, is in boarding school in London. When a series of brutal murders mimicking the 1888 killing spree credited to Jack the Ripper occur, only Rory sees the mysterious man who might be the culprit. In fact, Rory sees lots of people that no one else seems to notice. Are we sensing a ghosty theme here? Rory’s curious gift is at the center of this YA thriller, and while, yes it’s a bit predictable, it’s so well-written that the predictability is easy to overlook and forgive.
Johnson does a great job reviving 1888 London in the thrall of Jack the Ripper: the chill in the air, the atmosphere heavy with terror and dread. And then she turns it around and plunks the same atmosphere right in modern day London.
Rory Deveaux is a fantastic character, because she’s a teenager who actually acts like a teenager. She is at turns hilarious, witty, confused, pissed off, funny again, smart, dumb and completely likable. Her love interest, for lack of a better word, is an ordinary teenage boy with stupid boy hormones, which works out well for Rory since, as a teenager, she finds she likes kissing just fine. But it’s not that grand all-consuming, passionate love so popular in YA literature today. Her very normality makes her reactions and adjustments to her newly discovered talents positively delicious.
Johnson has also created some genuinely relatable supporting characters (keep an eye out for Dr. Who loving Boo) and sets up the framework for a potentially exciting mystery/thriller series.
An excellent first installment in Johnson’s new series.