Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1) by Maureen Johnson
Published: 29th September 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads description:

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.

My thoughts:

I think it’s genuinely a bit scary how authentic Maureen  Johnson’s  teenage voice was in this book.  Rory sounded how I’d want my main character to sound if I ever wrote a book. She had an individual voice, a strong narrative, a hint of the babble bug. She was witty and sharp and I just adored her.

I felt the characterisation as a whole was really hit and miss. I loved Rory, like I mentioned, and her roommate Jazza. Jazza is a typical quiet girl, she’d rather drink tea and read than do anything daring, unless it’s pointed out to her that no one would expect her to do it, in which case, she’s there. I also LOVED Alastair. He’s my favourite character of this book, even though he plays a fairly minor role. His love of The Smiths helped for sure, but I enjoyed his sarky comments. The rest though, very miss. Charlotte was unfairly persecuted in my eyes, Jerome was a total bore, as were Stephen and Callum and Boo…well. She was just an East End stereotype.

The setting was also a stereotype. A poncy English Boarding School with all sorts of traditions and odd ways. I used to not mind boarding schools but I’m starting to think they’re the setting of choice for the lazy writer. However, despite that, I did manage to feel some of the genuine fear that came from the pupils being locked in an enclosed space whilst murders happened around them. One thing I will say for Johnson is that she managed to outline ways in which England (and Great Britain and the United Kingdom) differ from America without seeming too condescending. Well, I found it slightly condescending, but I’m English and naturally I understand those things weren’t written in for my benefit, but I appreciated the appeal they’d have for American readers.

The take on ghosts in this novel was a really unique one. I feel I say that every review, but it seems authors are going above and beyond to develop the mythology of supernatural creatures at the moment so they don’t get too repetitive.  I loved the way in which people came to see ghosts, I thought that was definitely clever. Another thing I loved was how a seemingly insignificant event came to be the whole crux of the story.

I felt some parts of this book dragged slightly, I found myself reading for the enjoyment of the writing, and to find out the end, rather than because I was invested in the characters.  I thought the ending was clever however, I love bittersweet victories and whilst it didn’t end on a cliffhanger, it did end on an intriguing note, and left plenty of room for plot development in the later books.

This story contained many elements I adore in a novel. Aspects of the South of the US, a UK setting, a murder mystery and a relatable MC.  The use of the Jack the Ripper case was very clever, and very clevery developed on. It’s obvious that a lot of work went into the research for this novel, and Johnson manage to relate the facts of the Ripper case without seeming like she was writing a textbook on the subject. I’d give this book a 4, because of the problems I had with it mentioned above,  I will definitely be reading the rest of the series!

I am going to give away my ARC of The Name of the Star! 

To enter, simply leave a meaningful comment about my review along with an email address so I can contact you if you win.

Giveaway is UK ONLY and open until the 17th October!


  1. I have been trying to get a copy of this book for months. Now it's finally available, so I don't have to beg with no prevail for ARCs. Your review makes me glad that I didn't get an advanced copy. The story still sounds good, but probably not as awesome as I thought it would be given the subject matter. It's still a book I want to check out, but I probably won't skip my Starbucks to save money for it.

  2. This is an excellent review and so kind of you to give the book away! I'm really intrigued to read this book now after having read your comment about Maureen nailing the teenage voice perfectly with her MC. Plus I've heard that it's pretty gorey in some parts.. and let's face it. I. love. gory. :-P

  3. I've wanted to read this book ever since it started popping up around the Internet, but my knowledge of it was vague until now. Great review!

  4. I was lucky enough to be able to pick up a signed copy of this, although I much prefer the UK cover to the US. I feel like it's going to be one of those books that I let sit on my shelf for ages before reading it and then love it. Characters are what I live for in books, so I'm glad to read a review that mentions that they aren't the best, but that there are things that make it worth it.

  5. I'm so curious about this one. It's one of those "I'll be reading but I don't know much about it" books. It's too bad some of the characters were misses... characters are so important to me. I'll still check it out though. Great honest review!

    *oh and I'm a Canadian so don't enter me :) *

  6. Great review!! Seeing a lot of good reviews on this one and I'm definitely intrigued! Adding this to my bday list! The Jack the Ripper story has always been kind of creepy and odd, love to see how Maureen plays around with it! Although that sounded weird when typing, but oh well!

    US gal, so no entry for me

  7. Thanks for the great review. It makes me want read it more. Even if a few of the characters are a little stereotype but there's always one or two in every book or almost every book. I love the aspect of Jack the Ripper and how his crimes are what brings the story together. That definitely brings a huge creep factor(in a good way) to this story. Plus the fact that only Rory can see who the police are looking for. A whole lot of creepy, again in a good way lol, I so have to read this book.


  8. I actually really love boarding school settings...there's something about being in an old, mysterious building with a bunch of other teens that really appeals to me :P. Good to hear Rory was a good main character and that it wasn't too condescending for us Brits :P. I'm really intrigued about the ghost aspect too...I love ghost stories so looking forward to seeing how that's done! Glad you enjoyed it overall despite the few issues you had. Thanks for the giveaway too :)


  9. Brilliant review Cait! I loved this one as well and cant wait to meet MJ next week, or to see where this series goes next! :D

  10. Fantastic review Cait. I've wanted this one since I first heard about it months ago. I love the way you've described the heroine of the story. I'm even more eager to read this now!

  11. Excellent review :) I just got my copy of this the other day and I really can't wait to get started now.

    I think I agree with you about the over use of boarding schools in YA these days. It seems like everyone and their mother is writing books set in one - particularly English ones.

  12. This is a fantasticly honest review. I've read so many lately but always felt I still wasn't sure about other characters, however now i have better idead.

    Boarding school books were so popular when I was a kid so have been happy to see them come back but I do agree it is becoming overdone!

    Again thank you for being honest!

  13. I enjoyed your review and agree with you on some points, particularly the characters. The more interesting characters in this story are probably the ghosts, don't you think?

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    aonoexorcists at gmail dot com

  14. I can't enter your giveaway :P but I did enjoy your review. This book is on the way to me now. Also.. I'm an American reader and i don't think I'll enjoy snide comments on British habits :P.

    i haven't read very many boarding school type of novels, but I can see why a lot of authors write with them as their setting. Gets rid of the parents pretty easily and speeds up the plot to have everyone close together. But I can definitely, definitely see how that would get boring after a while.

  15. It's interesting to hear about what you didn't like so much about the book.

    Now I need to read it! xD

    Just tweet me if I win Cait ;P @FictionThirst


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