Thursday, November 3, 2016

Book Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

A few years ago, Giles and I took a vacation to Seattle and Portland. In Portland, I found what I’m pretty sure is going to be heaven: Powell’s City of Books. Seriously, we could have stayed in there for days and I still wouldn’t have been able to go through all of the rooms. Anyway, I had finished the book I had brought along with me for the trip and needed a new one for the flight back. I don’t remember how The Name of the Star came into my possession, but I was and am very glad that it did. See, I love fantasy novels, but I was getting a little worn out on all the vampires and werewolves running amok, and I was looking for something new. This book was a perfect fit for my fantasy worn out brain.

After both of Rory’s parents take jobs as law professors at a college in England, Rory decides to finish her senior year of high school at Wexford, a boarding school in the neighborhood of Whitechapel in London. Unfortunately for Rory, she arrives just in time to see a string of disturbing murders that mimic Jack the Ripper’s killing spree in 1888. When Rory and a friend decide to visit one of the crime scenes, Rory believes that she has seen the man who is the major suspect in the case. The problem? Rory is the only one who can see him. Now, the murderer just may be after Rory, unless she can find a way to stop him.

I know what you’re thinking. “Another Ripper story?!” Yes. It seemed appropriate for Halloween weekend. But what I really loved about this book was that it was not just another teen, supernatural romance with a wimp of a protagonist. I liked Rory’s character. She’s from Louisiana, her parents are lawyers, and she has a really weird family. She knows she sticks out like a sore thumb at school, but makes fast friends with her roommate. She is a good student, likes to study, and enjoys spending time with her friends. Rory sounds a lot like me, actually. That’s probably why I liked her so much.

Johnson is very good at foreshadowing in her work. I didn’t get a majority of her hints until I read through The Name of the Star a second time. In fact, I found the story much more humorous the second time through because I already knew what was going to happen and I could see the humor in the hints that one of Rory’s friends drops throughout the story.

I loved the connections Johnson made between the real Ripper murders and the murders she created for her own story. There was just enough of a link between them that it felt familiar, yet the present day murders were modern enough for me to believe in the setting. Compared to other stories I’ve read that link the past to the present, I felt that this story felt more real, even with the modern setting and the supernatural elements the author gave to it. In a lot of ways, these two things made it even more creepy.

My one hang up about The Name of the Star was the romantic element. I honestly felt like the Love Interest was unnecessary. I liked Jerome’s character very much, but almost felt like he would have functioned better as The Best Friend as opposed to the Love Interest. It felt like he was the boyfriend because young adult books seem to need one nowadays.

I have read The Name of the Star twice since I bought it, and I’m happy to say that it gets even better the second time it is read. Johnson wrapped up her story with a nice little bow...that has only one loop. It was a satisfying ending to this chapter in Rory’s life, but it also opened up a whole new adventure for her, literally in the last two sentences. Your homework: Get your hands on this book and tell me if you saw the ending coming. I’d be interested to see if I was the only one who didn’t put the solution together until the very end.

Emily is thinking she’ll step away from the Ripper books for awhile and tackle something a little different. Any recommendations are always welcome!

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to check the library.

    I love a good bookstore, especially if it is a used bookstore. Something about the scent of old books. Not to mention used bookstores are like entering a time machine, all these books from different eras. Each book has cover art that reflects the flavor of the time, the psychedelic art from the 60s and 70s makes me all wistful for my youth. It also helps that used books are a little easier on the wallet.