The Name of the Star
(Shades of London #1)
by Maureen Johnson
Published 2011 by Putnam Juvenile
372 pages. ARC.
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.
Any good book grabs the reader right off the bat. This book does just that. It begins, not with an introduction to the characters, but with the first murder. I have to say this is what I prefer. We’ll get to the main character soon enough. First, I want something to get me good and interested. Nothing quite does it like murder. It’s intriguing and it promises mystery and suspense for the rest of the book.
The next thing a good book does is introduce the reader to a likable, relatable character. Rory is awesome. I read a short story by Maureen Johnson last year and I already knew she could write good characters, but Rory exceeded my expectations. She’s perfect. She’s down to earth and she has a great sense of humor. I feel like that is so important in a book like this, where there’s a lot of death. It would just be depressing if that’s all it was about. The rest of the characters are terrific, as well. None of them seem one dimensional or flat. I adore Jazza. She’s so cute! Even though this book is more plot driven, Maureen doesn’t skimp on the characters. That makes me like her ever more.
I have to throw this out there, as well: it is so nice to have totally relevant writing. Sometimes, I’m reading a book and there are scenes that I could honestly care less about. Then, when I finish the book I realize that they were pretty much unnecessary. This usually involved a lot of descriptive writing, which just doesn’t work for this type of book. Everything in this book seemed important. I had this feeling that I couldn’t skim over anything. Maybe that has a lot to do with the mystery involved, but I think it’s just good writing. There’s no fluff. I love that!
I like this sort of mystery, ghost story trend that’s popped up in the YA genre. These books are much more interesting to me than the usual plot lines of “girl finds out she has super powers, girls meets guy she can’t live without, girl saves the world somehow.” It just gets old. Some of the books that have been coming out lately like The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and Fury are a little more grounded in reality to me but they’re still supernatural. I like it. I hope YA authors stick to this trend. I recommend this book to fans of those books. It’s similar, but a little more subdued. There aren’t as many “OMFG, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!” kind of moments.
One final note: yay for a relevant cover! When I got to that part in the book, I was like “Holy crap! That’s what the cover is about!” Love that!