Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Rory has come from Louisiana to London for her senior year of high school.  She arrives just as "Rippermania" begins.  Murders imitating the time, place and style of Jack the Ripper have London trapped in terror and fascination.  The police can't figure out who's behind the murders, and there are no leads and no witnesses.  Except Rory.  Rory saw a man at the scene of the third murder, which took place right at her school, but no one else seemed to be able to see him.  So why could Rory?

When I first saw the cover, I thought we were actually going to be in the time period of Jack the Ripper (1888) and was looking forward to that so I was quite surprised to find myself not taken back in time, but in the present day.  So I don't think this cover makes sense at all.  At all.

I guess I would classify this as a supernatural thriller.  There's a bit of a mystery for a little, as Rory and the rest of London wonders who is committing these terrible murders.  She figures out who's behind it early on, so there isn't much of a mystery left, but the crime is far from being solved.

Spoilers ahoy!

Ghosts.  The issue is ghosts, and Rory can see them.  She can see them because she had a near death experience (choking).  Of course, not everyone who has a near death experience as a teen will be able to see ghosts.  Only a few can.  Rory learns there is a secret ghost police in London, and that the murderer is a ghost, which is why she could see him but no one else seemed to.  This of course makes catching the criminal harder.

Rory is, quite naturally, very overwhelmed and freaked out and confused by her ghost seeing ability, and then add on top of that that "The Ripper" seems to want to cut out her eyes and make her the victim of his fifth and final murder.  The other members of the ghost police try to protect her, while also taking The Ripper out.

So there was some good stuff about this.  There were parts that were very exciting.  There was a little bit of horror.  It had a good setting.  Rory is an interesting enough character, although not especially unique.  There were parts that were quite funny and I chuckled out loud.  I liked the examination of how something that's actually really terrible turns into a show - with excitement and tee shirts and parties and everything.

My main problem was the ending.  I'm about to reveal what happened at the end folks, so stop reading now if you want to be at all surprised.  So what the ghost wanted, the ghost that was killing people horribly, were the devices that the ghost police used to get rid of ghosts.  He wanted them so he could feel safe.  So he started killing people in the style of Jack the Ripper to get their attention.  ...It just seems like there should have been a much simpler way to go about doing that.  And fine, he was suppose to be kind of unhinged, but even so.  Also, if the ghost police had reappeared two years ago, why did he wait until now to try and get the devices?  Why didn't he start working on that right away?  When I got to the end of the book, I was really curious as to why the ghost had been doing all this, and I was disappointed with the reason.  It seemed very anti-climatic.

This is the first book in the Shades of London series, and we're left just as Rory has made a very dramatic realization.

The Name of the Star will be available September 29.


  1. Interesting. I was drawn to this book by the Jack the Ripper storyline but wasn't sure what to expect. I don't think I will be reading it now. It doesn't sound like my kind of book. Jack the Ripper killings seem to be a popular plot device at the moment-it is also used in Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton and in The Map of Time by Felix Palma.

  2. I didn't want to read the spoilers but I'm excited for this one. Although, like you, I thought it was going to be during the Jack the Ripper era.

    Teens Read and Write

  3. I cannot wait to read this one - it has so many great things going for it!

  4. In addition to being a mystery with a unique setting, The Name of the Star is filled with twists and not a few surprises that will keep readers guessing well past the last page--not to mention leaving readers extremely eager for the next Shades of London book.

    The Name of the Star is an exceptional start to what I fully expect to be a brilliant series.


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