Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star

Author: Maureen Johnson

Series: Shades of London #1

ISBN: 9780399256608

Synopsis (according to 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.

The story opens on a girl named Aurora (“Rory”) entering a boarding school because her two genius parents decided to do some work-based vacationing in England. She was able to choose any school she wished to go to and she picked a boarding school. Anyone already wondering if Rory has something wrong with her head?

Once she gets there she is completely submerged in the English culture which is vastly different that what she is used to being a deep south American. She slogs her way through the unusual school schedule, mandatory sport (ick), and unfamiliar accents easier than most people would. However, she is met with an unfortunate, near fatal accident which renders her able to see ghosts. A fact that Rory does not come to realize until well into the middle (nearly the end) of the book. I found myself raising a brow at one of her first encounters with a corporeally challenged individual. She meets a boy in her library who doesn't seem to set off the motion sensory lighting as every other living thing seems to do. Hmm. Peculiar, eh, Rory? Not worth questioning?

The romance mentioned in the synopsis comes in the form of a prefect by the name of Jerome. Their romantic scenes left so much to be desired. They would get my hopes up about a strong emotional connection and then Johnson would simply move on to the next chapter. Jerome and Rory’s love scenes most lusty event involved a line of spit extending between their lips as they violently broke apart. Now that’s attractive.

While Rory struggles to come to terms with being able to see people that others can’t, a psychopath is cutting a bloody trail across London in much the same manner as Jack the Ripper from 1888. There is much discussion about the theories behind the mysterious serial killer from the 18th century that was absolutely fascinating. I found myself skipping through Rory’s “I see dead people” issues so I could get to more of the Jack the Ripper discussions that seemed to be plentiful.

Ultimately Rory becomes the focus of the serial killer and must confront him by the end of the book. In a very Scooby Doo like manner the killer seems to lay his entire life history out at Rory’s feet in a way of explaining both his reasoning for the killings and his plans for the future. The killer’s plans, of course, entails Rory’s death. Ruh Roh, Rory. All the while, one of the characters lays dying in the middle of the floor. Always time for a monologue, I suppose.

Unfortunately, the book was lackluster. It was all over the place and aside from the historical references to Jack the Ripper, I just couldn't get into it. The characters were so underdeveloped and confusing that I just couldn't seem to make a connection with them. However, the optimist in me hopes that the second book in the series will improve on the shortcomings I found in the first book.

Purchase: Amazon  »  Barnes and Noble  »  Book Depository

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  1. Ha! Scooby Doo. That's funny. I finally bought this book not too long ago when it was cheap. Who knows if I'll actually ever get to it, though. Wish you could've enjoyed it more. Great review, Danielle.

    1. I had such high hopes for it being a Jack the Ripper "fan" and all, but... It was just didn't resignate with me as much as I thought it would. I hope, if/when you get around to reading it you will enjoy it a little better than me. Thank you, Christy.