Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: Thriller, Crime, Mystery, Young Adult
My Rating: ★★★★
Jack the Ripper is back.
At least that’s according to the news filling the London air waves when Aurora “Rory” Deveaux arrives in Wexford, her new boarding school. A series of harrowing crimes mimicking the Whitechapel Murders in 1888 envelops the city in Rippermania, and smack in the middle of it all, Rory finds herself as the only witness. She has spotted a suspicious man the police consider as the prime suspect. When people who should have also seen the man claim to have not, she realizes something is awfully wrong…especially when she becomes the Ripper copycat’s next target.
Not counting the short story “The Children of the Revolution” from the geektastic anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns, The Name of the Star is Maureen Johnson’s first work that I’ve ever read, and its impressive mash-up of young adult humor and thrilling murder mystery easily convinced me to pick up her other works.
I see how the slow pacing (and all the things that bordered on cliché) in the first part of the novel was necessary for Johnson to craft the cast of characters and portray the new environment from the eyes of the snarky, smart heroine. It was mostly focused on the development of Rory, since the characters introduced early in the story were not as important as the ones that popped in the middle. However, while they can easily be dismissed as just part of the “background,” they are still part of Rory’s growth as she adjusts to what will be her second home.
I liked how the characters are carefully inflated one at a time, ending up fully blown with three-dimensional concreteness after mini anecdotes about them are exposed to the readers. It was obviously one of the easiest ways to give weight to a shell-hollow character, but I admit that it was rather impressive in the hands of Johnson. She made it seem…more realistic, with the drastic changes in Rory’s initial judgments of other people upon her discovery of their little histories that made them the way they are in the present. Rory eased into my favorite spot, and my unconventional second-rank favorite was the minor character Alistair (Thank God he wasn’t terminus-ed at the end! I’d love to see more of him in the next books!). I still need to warm up to the ghost-busting squad, though; with a little more push, I think I’d actually like Stephen.
The transition from the normal contemporary school life in the beginning into the darker life of being involved with the Shades was not precisely flawless, but it stayed faithful to Rory’s voice. Her life has changed when she gains her sight, and the story’s tone is not exempted from the transformations.
The plot was enjoyable and not hard to follow, and I kept on turning pages as more questions starved me for the next scenes. The happenings near the end packed a punch, and I simultaneously loved and hated the ending…for making me salivate for more! Cliffhangers should always be like this. I can’t wait for the next book to be released!
Photo by: m a r i e ★