09 June 2012

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

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 work of Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.

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 with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him?  And more urgently, what is he planning to do about her?

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.

The Name of the Star is Maureen Johnson's first paranormal work.  I've enjoyed the one or two contemporaries I've read of hers, and I think she's made a promising start crossing over into the paranormal genre.  The Name of the Star was enticing and rich with research.  Though I only found the main character, Rory, merely agreeable and the romance very "meh," I was impressed with the detail and suspense put into the story.

Rory won't exactly be getting a friendship bracelet from me, but I'm not thinking about throwing her into a pit of crocodiles, either.  She was, in a word, agreeable.  Her Louisiana background was believable, but not overwhelming in detail.  She was very convincingly American amongst a sea of Brits.  She lost me at some points, but otherwise, she was a good MC.

The story was fascinating.  (I mean, duh, it's about Jack the Ripper.)  It was a bit confusing at some points, but in retrospect, that's to be expected.  Maureen Johnson did a fabulous job clearing things up at the end, so if you're bogged down by the plot, hold out till the end.  Everything sorts itself out.  I really appreciated the amount of research Maureen Johnson must've put in -- there were a lot of small, almost inconsequential details that added flavor and intrigue to the plot.

The atmosphere was very eerie -- another thing Maureen Johnson did very well, better than a lot of paranormal authors who have several PNRs under their belts.  I wouldn't say I was sitting on the edge of my seat, but I did hold my breath a few times.  (And, yes, sadly, I mean that literally.)

The romance, however, stalled for me.  Very "meh".  I didn't think much of the romantic interest or why Rory was so interested in him, other than the fact that he was simply there.

The humor I'm on the fence about.  While I read it, I thought it was funny, but looking back on it, I don't remember it being all that funny.  A bit of a letdown coming from Maureen Johnson.

Overall, a brilliant story and definitely worth the time to read.

Quotes
It looked like the zombie apocalypse in the hall, everyone shambling toward the steps, looking confused, blank, deal-eyed. (p. 107)
Gators are just something you have to accept where I come from.  Most don't go anywhere near the houses, even though there are lots of delicious children and dogs there.  Every once in a while, though, an alligator has a lightbulb moment and decides to take a stroll and see the world a bit.  One day when I was eight or so, I opened the back door, and I saw this thing way at the end of the yard.  I remember thinking it was a bit black log -- so, of course, I went down to look at it, because what's more exciting than a big log, right?  I know.  Children are stupid. (p. 154)
Book Info:

  • pages - hardcover, 372
  • published - September 2011
  • publisher - Putnam Juvenile
  • genre - paranormal romance
  • received via - RAK :)
  • rating - 4/5
  • series - Shades of London
    • The Name of the Star
    • The Madness Underneath (coming 2013)