Book of the Week: The Name of the Star

So a month ago when I met Cassandra Clare, I also met Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson, who are besties with my Cassie. And they all had this great chemistry and you could tell they were super good friends and Sarah and Maureen were just cutting Cassie off all the time and making me laugh and running around like crazy and…

Okay the point is, I totally fell in love with them and so I knew I had to read their books.

I haven’t read any of Sarah’s yet but I’m working on it! Being a poor college student usually means not being able to afford enough books to keep up with my ridiculous reading habits (I’m on book 53 of 2013 remember?)

I had already read Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes and I liked it but it wasn’t my cup of tea. But after meeting her, I felt like…all right, I need to give Ms Johnson a second chance and I picked up this week’s book of the week so enjoy :)

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson


Young adult, paranormal, romance

Part of a Series?:
it is the first in the Shades of London series

You May Like if You Liked:
The Diviners by Libba Bray or the Abandon trilogy by Meg Cabot

Plot Summary:

Rory Deveaux is about to be a senior in high school in Lousiana when her professor parents decide to go on a sabbatical and let Rory pick where she wants to go…and she picks London. She even lives the ultimate British dream: boarding school (Damn you, Harry Potter, for making us all want to go to boarding school). And sure, the place is covered in Jack the Ripper tourists but things can only go well; she’s making friends, learning the British ways and even getting on fairly well with the British boys.

Then a murder occurs, in an almost identical manner as the very first murder of Jack the Ripper, in the same spot, mere walking distance from Rory’s school. Suddenly, the entire world is watching and when Rory sees a man that no one else can see when the second murder occurs, she begins to think she’s going crazy. Then she gets a new roommate, Boo, who starts to show her that she has a new talent, that she can see ghosts, and that the copycat Jack the Ripper is a ghost, a ghost that Rory has seen and that will be going after Rory next.

The Bad:

Honestly, there wasn’t a lot of bad in this novel, if any at all. I was very thoroughly impressed with this novel.

I would say only this: it was very slow to get to the point. I think I’m used to most books just jumping into the story, and getting going. Maureen sort of built things up first, but I actually ended up liking that. But as I was reading it, it was slow to begin. I was kind of like, okay, Rory left Lousiana, she’s in London now, she’s in boarding school and there’s a cute guy and she’s making friends and school is kind of hard…what is going on? Is anything actually going to happen? And things DO happen but you don’t really recognize them until later. Then there is also kind of a lead up to the shock of the first murder. Rory is living a mundane, normal teenage life and suddenly her world is rocked when a brutal murder occurs. It makes sense.

The Good:

There was so much good about this novel. First off, Maureen is a great writer. I say this over and over again: there are a lot of bad writers in the young adult genre. I believe that mostly comes from the fact that it is THE genre to be in right now so for every great author, there are five mediocre ones. But Maureen Johnson is a fantastic author. She takes what could be a typical cheesy teenage paranormal romance and turns it into a dark, sexy and heart-pounding novel. She spins a great story, and she really did her research on this (hey…did she go on a trip with Cassie when Cassie was researching the Infernal Devices? Hmmm).

I literally was…not scared but I was creeped out. We’re talking about ghosts, and a ghost that is killing and killing in the manner of Jack the Ripper. And if you don’t know anything of the killings of Jack the Ripper, they were brutal and disgusting. He didn’t just kill his victims, he mutilated them. He ripped them apart. To be experiencing that kind of terror, and basically in your own backyard…I can’t even imagine. And the fact that Rory sees the killer and no one else does and she thinks she’s going insane…that’s a lot for one person to handle. And I’m reading this in the dark, at 2 in the morning when I’m the only one awake in my house…I was pretty freaked out.

I also really commend Maureen Johnson for doing her research with Jack the Ripper, and twisting it just enough to fit her own story. Because we don’t KNOW who Jack the Ripper was and probably never will, but she really keeps you guessing…could she make a stab at who he is or is it a copycat? And the straight out brutality that comes with it…these are not simple murders that are occurring in the books, they are near exact replicates of the original murders. Injuries that occur aren’t simple ones, they are life threatening ones. I hate when books sugar coat things…in worlds like these, confronting killers like these.

And The Name of the Star made me want to read the next book, The Madness Underneath. The Name of the Star didn’t leave off with any burning questions or heartbreaking cliffhangers but Maureen Johnson makes you care about Rory (and Jerome and Jazza and Stephen and Callum and Boo…) and you want to know what happens to them next. There IS something that happens to Rory thats really surprising and pretty scary, and without spoiling anything, I really, really wanted to know how it had happened and what would happen next. I’ve read books before and been like, meh, I’ll read the sequel eventually. This one…I wanted the sequel right away. Unfortunately, money held me back but I have it now and I am (checks Kindle) 53% of the way through it. And I’m already loving it.

Maureen spins a good story. I admit, I was ready to write her off as another young adult author that just didn’t quite have it, and was going to get lost in the overload of young adult literature that is literally taking up all the shelves at bookstores nowadays. But I was very, very wrong. While 13 Little Blue Envelopes didn’t overly impress me. But her short story in the “Let it Snow” collaboration with John Green and Lauren Myracle impressed me and she was SO funny and awesome at the Mission Viejo Library and I just had to give her one more try…and I am SO glad I did. These are genuinely really good stories. She presents developed characters, a complex but familiar story and does her research…her world is real. I believe its real and that’s the mark of a good author.

I’m afraid to finish The Madness Underneath though…I’m not fond of waiting for another book… :)


4 out of 5 Stars

Recommended or Not?:

Definitely. Definitely, definitely, definitely. I know that its normal to get lost in the young adult literature section and its hard to know whats good and bad because they are a lot of good books and they are a lot of bad ones as well. But Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star is a GREAT one that I am SO glad that I picked up. Definitely click the link above, and grab yourself a copy!

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Maureen Johnson will be at the Festival of Books this Sunday, at a panel at 130 pm and autographing immediately after. I hope I am able to catch her so she can sign my copy of The Name of the Star!

What did YOU guys think of The Name of the Star? As always, share in the comments!

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