372 pp. Putnam (Penguin Young Readers Group) 2011
Summary (From Goodreads): 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.
Considering that Maureen Johnson has written quite a few YA novels already, I’m a little embarrassed that The Name of the Star is the first of her books that I’ve read. However, if you’re in the same boat as me, I highly recommend you start with this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the humor and mystery. There is a nice element of romance, but it isn’t the focus of the novel.
I love a good mystery, especially when I can find one in YA. Rory has moved to London for her senior year of high school and murders very similar to the Ripper murders are happening again. This adds an instant element of suspense, while Rory’s quick wit and sense of humor provide comic relief to break the tension. Rory is a memorable character who kept me laughing through most of the novel. There were times during SSR that I had to keep myself from snorting with laughter. She keeps her sense of humor throughout the novel, but there’s a definite shift in mood once the Ripper murders get too close for comfort. The mystery is excellent; I was making predictions the entire time I was reading, which I love.
Quite a few people I follow on Twitter have been reading The Name of the Star and have said things like “I shouldn’t read this at night.” Some of the murders are gory in their descriptions, and Rory is put in some suspenseful situations, but I never felt like I couldn’t read this at night. Please note that I am not some tough, loves to watch scary movies, kind of woman. The Name of the Star just wasn’t scary in my opinion, but that isn’t a complaint. The atmosphere becomes spookier as the novel progresses which I know will resonate well with readers. And the ending? Wow!
There were a couple holes in the story, although minor, that I wish were resolved. **Note: This may become spoilerly** Rory has a budding relationship with Jerome, but by the book’s end, nothing about it is mentioned again. What happens with him? Does he still care about her? Will it be resolved in the second book? Not much is mentioned about Rory’s parents or her relationships in general. Like I said, these are minor, but however small I still noticed them.
If you’re looking for a novel that will keep you reading and on the edge of your seat, then I highly recommend The Name of the Star. For a big chunk of the novel it reads like realistic fiction, but it has a fresh supernatural element that many readers will enjoy.