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Sonderbooks Book Review of

The Name of the Star

by Maureen Johnson


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The Name of the Star

Shades of London
Book One

by Maureen Johnson

Reviewed October 31, 2011.
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2011. 372 pages.
Starred Review

On the same day that Rory Deveaux from Benouville, Louisiana, arrives in London for a year of boarding school, someone decides to imitate the murders of Jack the Ripper. The murders are gruesome and horrible, and keep arriving on schedule, with Rory's school in the middle of Ripper territory. But the worst part about these new murders is that the victims can be seen on the closed circuit TV cameras posted all over London. But the person murdering them cannot be seen.

Then Rory begins seeing people that her friends don't see. And on the night of one of the murders, one man in particular talks to her, but her roommate Jazza doesn't even see him. He knows who she is and where she lives.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot, because it's all played out beautifully, with plenty of growing suspense as we begin to figure out, along with Rory, what is going on.

It all leads into a frightening and dangerous confrontation at the end, with a nice twist that assures us there will be more books about Rory. (Though the story in this book is complete, thank goodness! None of that awful "To Be Continued" stuff here.)

Now, call me sheltered, but I had no idea how gruesome Jack the Ripper's murders were. I thought he just slit people's throats or something. Using those details definitely raises the stakes in this novel. We want to see the murderer brought to justice, and we don't want to see Rory fall into his clutches.

The non-paranormal part of the story is entertaining on its own with an American girl trying to fit in at an English boarding school. I fully sympathized with Rory's horror at field hockey every single day.

I enjoyed the passage where she explains what she learned in the first week:

Some other facts I picked up:

Welsh is an actual, currently used language and our next-door neighbors Angela and Gaenor spoke it. It sounds like Wizard.

Baked beans are very popular in England. For breakfast. On toast. On baked potatoes. They can't get enough.

"American History" is not a subject everywhere.

England and Britain and the United Kingdom are not the same thing. England is the country. Britain is the island containing England, Scotland, and Wales. The United Kingdom is the formal designation of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as a political entity. If you mess this up, you will be corrected. Repeatedly.

The English will play hockey in any weather. Thunder, lightning, plague of locusts . . . nothing can stop the hockey. Do not fight the hockey, for the hockey will win.

Jack the Ripper struck for the second time very early on September 8, 1888.

This is a well-written novel of suspense, but with lots of fun mixed in. I'm an avid follower of Maureen Johnson on Twitter, where she's the funniest person ever, so I wasn't at all surprised to love Rory's voice. I am not a person who deliberately chooses to read scary books. Yet I thought this scary book was wonderful, and a whole lot of fun. I'm looking forward to future books.