Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Release Date: September 29, 2011
Series: Shades of London #1
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rory Deveaux is just a typical American teen, anticipating a year of boys with accents and bizarre British customs as she settles in at her new London boarding school. But Rory's in for a lot more than she bargained for, as London finds itself in the grip of a brutal serial killer -- a man imitating the grisly murders of Jack the Ripper more than a century ago. A man no one can see. No one, that is, except Rory.

In The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson's signature snappy style creates an unexpected blend of humor and horror, and readers will be surprised to find themselves laughing aloud in the midst of this gruesome nightmare. Jack the Ripper holds a morbid fascination for modern imaginations, a twisted awe at getting away with murder -- literally. Johnson strategically plays off this strange seductiveness to draw unsuspecting readers into a heart-pounding thriller laced with a deadly taste of déjà vu.

Rory is an utterly disarming heroine. With her easy southern charm, quirks and quips, her narration is delightful to read. Her fresh, light voice provides a striking counterpoint to the otherwise grim tale, and the outrageous stories she tells of her eccentric family back home will leave readers in fits of laughter. Rory is so full of life, readers will feel as though they've known her their whole lives. She's a believable blend of determination and occasional fear, optimism and wry wit. She's not perfect; sometimes she does dumb things, as humans are wont to do -- and her guileless, unassuming attitude makes her all the more winning. It's impossible not to cheer for Rory as she struggles with this unfathomable new world and determinedly faces off against an unstoppable, remorseless killer.

Despite her heartwarming and hilarious heroine, Johnson slices a sharp blade of terror through the novel. There is a terrible irony in the fact that the citizens of London know exactly when and where each murder will happen, but are powerless to stop it. By drawing on the sensationalism of Jack the Ripper, Johnson takes the latent fear and turns it into a bone-chilling nightmare. The horror and hopelessness increase with each grisly crime scene, and a sense of despair settles over the novel as London sits helplessly by. Readers will be on the edge of their seats with their hearts in their throats as this hair-raising thriller marches inexorably toward its terrifying conclusion.

Johnson brings each and every one of her secondary characters to life, from Rory's hilarious house mother and boisterous field hockey coach (an activity of which Rory is not a fan), to her smart and sweet crush/make-out partner, to the man behind the mayhem. This world is richly populated and skillfully sketched. London itself is crucial to the atmosphere, its foggy, ancient streets the perfect setting for crimes of the past.

The blending of history and fantasy will appeal to fans of all genres -- whether they enjoy murder mysteries or ghost stories, historical fiction or contemporary, The Name of the Star has it all. As the novel opens, it's easy to forget our heroine lives in a paranormal world. Rory is so realistic, like your best friend or the girl-next-door, that readers will find themselves caught up in her boarding school exploits, forgetting the cold reality that lies just around the bend -- until it's already too late.

Rating: 

Disclosure: I received an advance galley of this novel at BEA for an honest review.

60 comments:

StephTheBookworm said...

I was considering reading this one. I definitely think I will! I don't think I picked this one up at BEA though - don't remember seeing it!

Nancy Kelley said...

I have been DYING to read this book. However, since I'm prone to nightmares, I've opted to get it from the library first, rather than buy it and find I can't handle it.

This is sad for me, as I know Maureen has written an incredible story but I don't know if I will be able to read it.

Casey (The Bookish Type) said...

@Steph -- You should definitely read it! It's SO much fun! They only had like 75 at BEA, I think, and you had to get a number to get one.

@Nancy -- I am a HUGE chicken, but though this one did freak me out at times, it wasn't to the point that I had to stop reading. The humor of the style sort of balances out the scary stuff, I think. I definitely recommend giving it a try!

Dragonfly Stories said...

Looking forward to reading this one - even more so after reading such a positive review - thanks.

Melina said...

It's great, isn't it? I really like how detailed your review is too.

Book Crook Liza said...

I've been really iffy about this book because I'm not a big fan of serial killers. But if there's a paranormal element I might not be as scared by it. Give me ghosts and I'm okay! Real killers nonononononoono! :D But your review sounds really good, so I might have to add it to my wishlist!

Liza @ Book Crook Liza

danya said...

I like the sound of the balance of light and dark - humor and horror - that goes on in this one. I'm not a big fan of blood and gore, though...is there a lot of graphic violence in this one? Or is much of it psychological or implied?

Casey (The Bookish Type) said...

@Danya -- Oh no, definitely not gory! I think a photograph of one of Jack the Ripper's victims is described, which was kind of gross, but other than that it's really more psychological.

Nakoya said...

Great review. I read this book a couple weeks ago and loved it. It's probably one of my favorite books read this year.

TheGirlOnFire said...

I think it is great that a main character in this is a girl next door type. I want to be able to believe in a character so that is a quality I look for. It is also cool that this is a mix of horror and humor, I don't know that I have read many of those.

Zoey Talbon said...

Amazing review :) I've wanted this book since it first came out, but it's never at my bookstore :(

ebaker said...

I have wanted this book for so long! It sounds amazing and I love books about serial killers and I love YA books so this sounds like the perfect blend. Plus since I have been to London several times it will be interesting revisiting it through a book.

eden.kaye said...

Oh my goodness, this sounds so good!!! And the cover art is amazing!!

xo stephanie @Little Red Reads

dani_nguyen said...

Jack the Ripper! This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2011 but I haven't gotten a copy yet! I love a good mixture of horror and wit. Can't wait to read.

Tiffany Mahaffy said...

I have been on and off about wanting to read this or not. I have seen nothing but good reviews on it, so that to me says READ IT!! Thank you for another great review and it is still on my "to buy list".

Vivien said...

One of my favorites mysteries is Jack the Ripper. The modern twist to this is so alluring. I'm rather intrigued on how it turns out.

Dea (IvaliceAlliance) said...

I've heard so many great things about it and I can't wait to read this one!

Monica T ♥ said...

I have seen this book around here in the blog world. I absolutely adore Maureen Johnson as an author and writer! I really cannot read how Maureen wrote another awesome book! Thank you for reviewing this book :)

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

I really adored this one -- glad you did as well! =) Rory was a pretty cool main character, and I loved the blend of contemporary and paranormal, and then the historical element to it all as well.

infernal_wings said...

I love books with a mix of historical and fantasy! I haven't read this book yet but I'm hoping to buy it the next time I see it in stores! Looks good! Thanks for the review!

Amber Hughes said...

I love thrillers and it's great that it has humor in it too! I am really looking forward to reading this book! Another wonderful review! :-)

TCAbn said...

The horror, thriller isn't really my cup of tea but the review is fantastically written and would certainly be something I could use to point my friends and fellow readers who like this genre, to a possibly great read. The one solid hook for me is the historical ties...which almost has me thinking about adding it to my list...almost. Clever review!

Molly Gibson-Mee said...

Hi!

Very clever review!

I love the fact that the heroine isn't just a simpering mess. I always love people who aren't perfect, who have their faults and we love them for it! So happy Rory's like that!

This is the first cliffy review I've read! Clever but OMG I SOSOSOSOSOS wanna read it now!

Great review!

Molly.

http://readingismycupoftea.blogspot.com

VanillaOrchids said...

The plot of this books sounds fascinating. I like the idea that it's set in England and that there is a Jack-the-Ripper style murder mystery involved. I would very much like to read this.

Pam
vanillaorchids69(at)gmail(dot)com

Evie said...

This book sounds so FAB!!! London, Jack the Ripper.. and you're saying the humor is magnificent?! Wow, I have to read it soon :) I knew the book was good, cause everyone was talking about it (well, more like raving about it) for quite a while now, but I never expected it to be such a great mix of thrill and laugh ;)

Thanks for your review - I loved reading every word of it!

Evie

Lauren Victoria Adams said...

Hi,

Very clever review, really good!

This is the one of the only cliffy reviews I've read! Clever, but I actually really want to read it now! I will defo have to go to the library when it comes out!!

Lauren

http://theresnofuninbeingnormal.blogspot.com

dookiepookiebear said...

this is the best book of the year love mj's books.

Asheley (@BookwormAsheley) said...

This book sounds positively delightful, if you know what I mean. I am not the *biggest* fan of the other books that MJ has written (oh my, please don't hate on me!) but this seems to be a departure and I have had my eye on it since I found out about it a bazillion years ago. I didn't get an ARC of this one, so the suspense is killing me.

Also, the idea of a mixture of horror and humor is kinda neat.

Books Glorious Books said...

I've been wanting this one for a while. It just sounds like a really good read and so many people have recommended it to me - I need to pick it up soon!

TayteH said...

Okay, out of this review, i got: This book is kinda creepy. I'm not a fan of creepy, Jack the Ripper in all that scary stuff. I still want to read the book, but it sounds like I'll be on edge through the whole thing.

Adriana said...

Now I´m intriged I keep reading and see humor, hilarious, laughter in your review and I didn´t expect it in this novel, so now I need to read it.
Add it to my TBR list.

Natasha Areena said...

I'm glad that there was a mix of Maureen's humor with the horror

LoLa said...

What a lovely lyrical review of a great book! This was the first novel that I've read by Maureen Johnson - any other recommendations? I really enjoyed The Name of the Star, and one reason is because I liked Rory so much! I agree, she was a great heroine. Though I must admit, I wasn't a big fan of the makeout partner (besides the curly hair). I much preferred the Eton grad, and I very much hope we see a lot more of him in the next one!!

Jenna and Ashley said...

It is a true talent for an author to be able to develop its secondary characters-- I was excited to read you thought Johnson did such a good job. I've barely dipped into historical fiction, but this sounds like a winner. The Jack the Ripper scenario is appealing. I also like that the protagonist is likely to tell family stories that provide humor. It's hard to read some sort of suspense novel without comic relief!
Nice review.
-Jenna @ Fans of Fiction

Evie said...

I've never heard of this book before.
It looks really interesting the mix of horror and humor. And I really like murder mysteries too. So this book looks perfect to me!

Linda @ Most Important Letter said...

Oh my goodness, this used to be, like, around #100 on my to-read list. You just bumped it up to #5, hahaha. :)

I'm dying to read this book. Mysteries are my FA-VO-RITE. And plus, there's paranormal activity and romance! Oh goodness, I have a feeling that I'll love this book. :)

dark_romance_luvr said...

I haven't heard as much about this book so I was happy to see a well-written review on it. Sounds really good and am looking forward to reading it!

Denise Z said...

I have wanted this book from the first time I saw the cover (yes I am one of those LOL) You have a true gift for writing a review and I appreciate your sharing and confirming everything I was hoping for in this book :)

Aik said...

I've heard so much about this book, and your review makes me sure about reading it in the near future.

Martina Koleva said...

I have to admit that that's the first time I've read the description and a review for the book. I've seen the cover but I, for some reason, didn't read the description. I am now sorry for that mistake because the book sounds really great. I would love to read it if I get the chance! Thank you for the great review!

elena said...

ooh I really like your review of this book, maybe more than I liked the book itself! "Disarming" is such a good word to describe Rory, I liked how easy going and brazen she was. I also appreciated her relationship with her crush, it was no fuss and all teenage. Sometimes you need a break from ~*eternal love*~ and perpetual angst! I liked the point you made about the citizens knowing the time but being helpless to stop it anyway, I think that in itself is scarier than the actual Ripper. One of my favourite part of the books though was Rory's friendship with her roommate, it was just so nice how they were genuinely friends.

Kailia Sage said...

I'm a fan of Maureen Johnson but I haven't picked up this book yet. I've read some interesting reviews that have put me off but you wrote an awesome review! Rory sounds like an interesting character and I like that Maureen didn't just make this a love story book or anything.

FairyWhispers said...

sounds creepy and nice at the same time

=)

FallenAngel said...

Great review

Ems said...

Do you know that I've yet to read a Maureen Johnson book!? I know, scandalous. I might make this my first. It sounds like a really awesome book.

Manda said...

Need. this. now. I haven't read much about Jack the Ripper, but this sounds fascinating, and just so goood! I like Maureen Johnson too, so I know it'll be brilliant, plus all the rave reviews.

What's Beyond Forks? said...

I hadn't heard of this one yet. It sounds pretty good though! Great review!

Gabby @ What's Beyond Forks?

Malvina+Beatrice said...

This book is on my wish-list, I've heard many great things of this book.
I've previously read other books of Jack the Ripper and its the history, so I would love to read this one.

Sam Bella said...

Thanks for the review! I've been dying to get my hands on this book! Nearly all the reviews I have seen on it have been very positive - it's been getting a lot of 5 stars. I can't wait to read this. :D

Kah_cherub said...

I love everything that has to do with the Ripper! *-* The last great book I read about him was Jack Knife, so I can't wait to read The Name of the Star. :)

Juan Roca said...

Wow! Awesome review!! Really, I've ONLY been reading good stuff about this book, I want to read it SO BADLY!!!!!! Haha But I can't find it anywhere in Brazil! God, I HATE distance!!
Anyway, thanks for the review, and for making me want it even more desperately! Haha

Juan Roca,
Geeks & Books

Amy said...

Very nice review. I really enjoyed this book. It was one I was really looking forward to. This is another one I have on my Nook that I want to get a physical copy of. I am intrigued by Jack the Ripper so this book was a must read for me.

Jennifer said...

This was not really a book i had planned on reading. Nice review. Maybe i will check it out.

jennifer k

what...more books said...

You know, i really do not know much about this book. i was not even aware of it till few days ago. once i read the decription and saw that it is about jhach the reaper, i new it was somethign that i wanted to read right away. i love stories that revolve around jack the reaper.

hope form whatmorebooks

Ashley Suzanne said...

I thoroughly enjoy reading your reviews and I am really excited about this book. I cannot wait to give it a try!

Proserpine said...

Hi!
This story could be very interesting, I like the Reapper story so I'm sure I would like it!

Proserpine!

primrose said...

Sounds interesting! Will be looking for this one.

Julie said...

This book sounds so intriguing! The story of Jack the Ripper always scares the pants off of me, the way he literally got away with murder! I love how you talk about the way the author writes secondary characters, because that is one of my pet peeves - secondary characters that are two dimensional and not fleshed out! I can't wait to read this book, thanks in part to your awesome review:)

jwitt33 at live dot com

IdentitySeeker said...

Rory sounds like one feisty, kick-ass heroine- surprising for a young school girl in her position a foreign country- and I'm very curious about what this eccentric family of her back home is like. I follow Maureen on Twitter, so I look forward to her signature wit shining through in this book. Love your review:)

Sarah

Demijel said...

The different combination of elements and genres makes me want to read this novel. Rory also seems like a wonderful character, full of life.

But honestly, maybe it's because I've always been fascinated with stories that incorporate Jack the Ripper. He's one of the serial killers I've always found fascinating and extremely frightening.

Demi @ Breaking Bookshelves

You Might Also Like:

Related Posts with Thumbnails