Monday, October 28, 2013

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (Review)


Shades of London #1
Young Adult, Paranormal, Horror, Mystery, Ghosts, Historical Fiction, Thriller
Publication.Date:September 29, 2011
Pages:372 (hardcover)
Published By:  Putnam Juvenile
Website:Maureen Johnson 

The Name of the Star on Goodreads
My review copy:Purchased

Where to get:

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 words NEW RIPPER? flashed across the screen over a panoramic shot of Big Ben and Parliament. It was as if the news itself wanted to reassure me. Even Jack the Ripper himself had reappeared as part of the greeting committee.
Gators are just something you have to accept where I come from. Most don't go anywhere near the houses, even though there are lots of delicious children and dogs there. Every once in a while, though, an alligator has a lightbulb moment and decides to take a stroll and see the world a bit. One day when I was eight or so, I opened the back door, and I saw this thing way at the end of the yard. I remember thinking it was a big black log - so, of course, I went down to look at it, because what's more exciting than a big black log, right? I know. Children are stupid.
For the next hour, we went around the National Gallery assessing butts. There are  a lot of name butts in classical paintings. Big, proud, classical butts everywhere, sometimes draped with a little cloth for flavor. We favored the bigger butts with the most detail. We gave points for best cracks, best dimpling, and best smiley curvature around the upper thigh. We differed on only one issue: I liked the reclining butts, Jerome like the action butts. Butts leading people into battle, butts about to get on a horse, butts giving speeches, butts looking dramatic. Those were his kind of butts. I liked the way the more relaxed butts squished on one side, and the cheeky over-the-shoulder look most of their owners gave. "Behold," they seems to say. "Amazing, isn't it?"
Reviewer note: Rory, Jazza, and Boo are dressed up as Zombie Spice Girls for Halloween

"Tell me what you ant, what you really, really want," he said.

We had been planning for someone to ask us that.

"Braiiinnnnssss," we said in unison.

"It's both sad and incredibly impressive that you were all ready with that one."
"Fear can't hurt you," she said. "When it washes over you, give it no power. It's a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you."

     Ever since Anastasia came out in 1997, I've had this habit of reading anything (everything) that has to do with the main subject of a fictional movie (that's based off true events or an individual) and developing a mini-obsession. I did this with quite a few films, including Titanic, Marie Antoinette, The Duchess, and From Hell. Sometimes these obsessions wane (Marie Antoinette, Georgiana Cavendish, Jack the Ripper) and sometimes they are stick around (Anastasia Romanova and Titanic). Every once and while though, a book/movie will come out that re-sparks my interest in some of these waning topics. I've had The Name of the Star on my TBR list for a while, but after Joe read From Hell by Alan Moore and watched the movie again, I had to move this novel up and incorporate it into our Spook-tastic Bookish Halloween.

     Maureen definitely starts off on the right foot. Even before we meed any of our characters, we come across the first victim. Just like that. I love when authors throw us into the thick of things right away. "Hey thanks for reading my book. *boom* Here's a dead body!" Of course, after this Maureen takes things easy. She does an excellent job of building the story. We get to know Rory (before her encounters with ghost), her classmates, the school, and all those little details. It was nice to see her living a normal existence before she was thrown into the world of paranormal. So while it was a slow beginning, I enjoyed it.

     I liked Rory instantly. I already knew she was brave/tough as she opted to spend her senior year not in Louisiana with her friends, but in England while her parents were on sabbatical in Bristol. Major points for that alone. She is also very smart and witty girl, with her humor bleeding into her thoughts - both spoken and unspoken. What made her truly believable is that she had a rough time adjusting to the English school system. Not only that, but she wasn't immediately adopted into the "popular" group, nor was she deemed "unworthy." She made friends easily and became very close with her roommate, Jazza, whom I also loved.

     I found the characters to all be believable and likeable, well the ones we were supposed to like anyway. Even the minor characters become well defined and real in my eyes. Especially Jo. We see so little of Jo, but she is easily one of my favorite characters.

     The romance is so minor it seems almost silly to mention it. While Jerome has the appeal of being an English boy - who doesn't love a good accent? - all I really view him as is somebody for Rory to make out with every now and then. There's a small budding (high school) romance, but that's it. I'm not sure if this is something Maureen plans to explore more in the sequels, but I won't be heartbroken if this is all we get from these two.

     As far as the killer goes, I'm flip-flopping. The motive was iffy at best. However, when dealing with somebody who is killing innocent people Jack the Ripper style, does it really matter if we get a legit motive or not? Clearly, they're insane. Let's also consider who they're emulating. Can we really fault the killer for a lame motive, when the (wo)man being emulated didn't have a motive her/himself? At least not that we know of anyway. Yes, I'm insinuating that Jack the Ripper could have truly been Jacqueline the Ripper.

     Maureen did a fabulous job taking this infamous moment in British history and making it something new and fresh. She obviously did her research on the topic and completely delved into it, providing even the reader with the most basic Ripper knowledge a footing to stand on. Not only that, she took the ghost concept to a whole new level. While I've come across ghosts novels of a similar concept, she tweaked it just enough that it was her own.

     If you're looking for an eerily, ghostly read, this is definitely something you should pick up. The dialogue is perfect, the scenery described wonderfully, and the plot intriguing. The ending, while not a cliffhanger, is just enough of a tease that you'll start yelling "Somebody get it The Madness Underneath, stat!"
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