The Name of the Star is one of those books that I saw reviewed a dozen times but it really didn't grab me. "Girl goes to London, ends up in Jack the Ripper copycat murder investigation" just wasn't appealing. Then I started following @maureenjohnson on Twitter and she completely sold me on it. I can't even pinpoint why, except that she's a very funny person in that medium and I was dying to be part of the fun of promoting both this book and the one that follows (The Madness Underneath.) I requested both the paper copy and the e-book copy from the library, and they both came in at the same time. Of course.
So. Girl (Rory) goes to London to live at a boarding school for her senior year of high school. While she's at Wexford, a copy cat murderer starts to kill people in the style of Jack the Ripper. After Rory sees a potential suspect very close to a murder scene, she becomes deeply involved in the investigation, and discovers that she's got new superpowers.
I'm not sure why I ever doubted this one. I've read 13 Little and it's sequel and enjoyed both of them. Why wouldn't this one be as great? Because it totally was. First, Rory has such a great personality. She's a bit quirky, funnily realistic and has a terrific way of talking about her hometown in the swamps of Louisiana. Rory arrives at Wexford as the token American, and while she doesn't struggle to fit in, the intensity of the boarding school experience is very well written. (I can say that, having gone to boarding school myself.) For example, this paragraph from page 60:
When you live at school, you get close to people really quickly. You never get away. You eat every meal with them. You stand in the shower line with them. You take class and play hockey with them. You sleep in the same place. You begin to see the thousand details of everyday life that you never catch when you just see people during school hours. Because you're there constantly, school time moves differently. After only one week at Wexford, I felt like I'd been there a month.This is absolutely true. Even if I hated the rest of the book (I didn't), the boarding school bits are completely dead on.
Now that I've talked about everything else, what is the book about? Is the plot any good? Why yes, yes it is. So there's this murderer running around and one of Rory's new friends, the guy she's interested in, happens to be slightly obsessed (along with most of London.) While Rory is tagging along with Jerome, she happens to see a man near a crime scene, and upon further questioning, realizes that no one else can see him. Shockingly, the police take her seriously, and she become crucial to the investigation. Johnson's reasons for why some people can see ghosts are believable (once you believe in ghosts) and there are only a few moments of "hmm, I dunno about that..." It ends in a horrifyingly wonderful way, and has a definite ending while also setting up for the next book in the series. (Kind of like the end of Christine, if you read that. It ends, but there's that little "Ping!" of the next book.) I am really glad that I only have to wait until February 26th for the next book, because I'm really excited to see where this is going.
Because some people care about these things in YA books- there is a little kissing but nothing more. There is a little bit of light drinking, but they are in London, where the drinking age makes the legality of this a bit hazy.
If you pre-order The Madness Underneath, you get free gifts. (Offer ends Feb. 26.)
You can find Maureen Johnson online, on Tumblr (highly recommended), on twitter, and on Facebook.
Source: library e-book.