Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Name of The Star Shade of London #1 by Maureen Johnson

The Name of The Star

Shades of London
By Maureen Johnson
September 29 2011
pages 370
Reviewed ARC from Library Things
Early Reviewers Program

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.(From Good Reads)

Okay, here's the truth.  I have written this review about ten times and none of them have come close to saying what I want to say about how I feel about my reading experience of this novel.  The Name of the Star was an absolute out of the ball park WIN as Ashley at the Bookish Brunette would say!  This novel has everything in just the right amounts and there is never a hint about how things are going to turn out.  Or how Rory, the main character got her special abilities.  It's just a brilliantly written novel.

So, here's what I loved.  Rory, the main character.  She's from the deep South, Louisiana, and she has all these crazy aunts and uncles and tells these stories about them to her new schoolmates without any self consciousness.  She doesn't worry if they think she's weird, in fact, she thinks she's the coolest thing in the room because they all may be new and different to her, but she's the only one that's different to them.  So she tells them about the aunt that channels angels and has 800 statues of angels in her house and garden.  She tells them about her uncle who has his room on the second floor filled with freezers, and keeps his money in peanut butter jars in the ground.  She tells them about the other eccentricities of her southern town, but she's smarter than all of them.  This is taken totally out of context and Rory thinks this when the head girl is a bitch to her but it pretty much applies anywhere, anytime, "I decided to deflect her attitude by giving her a long Southern answer.  I come from people who know how to draw things out.  Annoy a Southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death."(p24) I so love that!  You just don't know!  Rory is smart, she doesn't go into things lightly, she tries to be careful and her commentary throughout the book is hilarious in a dry humorous way.  When she and her roommate Jazza, get another roommate, Boo (a nickname) and Rory and Boo go to field hockey practice Rory notes, "She ran up and down the field with that stick like a thing born to run up and down the with a stick,"(p149). "Like a thing" because what else would run up and down the field with a stick?

So, yes of course the other thing I love is the humor in the book, dry, sarcastic, witty and at times self deprecating.  How can you not laugh when in the middle of some tense, serious life or death matters Rory thinks, "I was learning all kinds of things in London, mostly about ghosts and flags and disbanded girl groups, but still.  Learning is good."(p 217)  And believe me the humor is needed when the serious stuff starts happening.

"Rippermania" as the papers call it has erupted.  An elusive murderer is recreating the horrific murders of Jack the Ripper and no one sees him.  Not the police combing the area, not the cameras, no one.  But this may not be someone everyone can see.  And that's where the secret ghost police come in.  I won't lie, at first this part confused me a little until they explained to Rory what was going on.  It was a "need to know" basis for a little bit of the story and then it all came spilling out.  But as the real story behind the murders comes out the story becomes more suspenseful and scary and I unfortunately was reading late at night by myself.  I jumped at every noise.  Turned the bathroom and closet light on and sat in the middle of the bed hidden by pillows.  There is nothing scarier than a ghost story in the middle of the night, especially a well written one.

This brings me to the next thing I loved.  I had no idea who would survive and who wouldn't.  Just because Rory is the main character in this novel doesn't mean she would be in the next one.  I didn't see how this one would end.  No escape routes.  No rescues.  No hope.

And the side characters.  Jazza is the first roommate Rory has and will now be known as Mom.  She was the worrier and the caretaker.  She is very protective of Rory and hates Boo I think because she feels threatened by her.  Boo is the cool newbie.  She's new to the group and loves what she does and isn't doing the best job at fitting in.  But she's kind and takes what she does seriously.  Jerome, the boyfriend is sweet, shy and also very protective of Rory.  He also is funny, but he is a little uncertain of himself with Rory.  Stephen takes himself and his duty very seriously, almost too much so, but he also is very protective of Rory.  And then there's Callum.  Callum is a tell it like it is kind of guy who doesn't hold back and would do anything for his friends.

And did I say the plot is phenomenal?  Boarding school, transplant a Southerner to London, Jack the Ripper, paranormal, do I really need to say any more to get you to read this?  Great characters, and MC I could identify with (even though I'm not 16/17 yrs old) suspense, a mean girl, humor, and a little romance.  Oh and did I tell you it's set in London?

So, if I haven't shown the love for this novel, then I just can't do it.  I loved every word from the beginning to the end and can't wait for the sequel!  I love Maureen Johnson's writing style, so easy to read.  I read it in one day, but the plot twists and the entire plot line were fresh.  There are only a few ghost stories out right now that I know of so this one feels like something new and ahead of it's time.  The scary parts are lightened by Rory's humor and observations and as I said, she's not stupid.

I hope I've convinced you somewhere in here that The Name of The Star is a great first book in the Shades of London series.  The set up for the next book is in the last few pages but I wouldn't call it a cliffhanger.  I now have to go out and buy the rest of Maureen Johnson's books so I know what I've been missing!



  1. Oh this is on my TBR list. I cant wait to get it. After reading your review, I am pushing it up to the top! Great review..thank you!

  2. Thanks Tee! I worked hard on this one. This was the first of Maureen Johnson's books I've read and I fell in love with her writing! I've been using the word unique a lot lately, but it seems like YA writers aren't having a hard time coming up with unique things to write about! This is definitely different. Plus I think I'm a closet Jack the Ripper umm, person who is fascinated by his crimes. Or more that they never caught him.
    Maybe he's still out there......


  3. "So, yes of course the other thing I love is the humor in the book, dry, sarcastic, witty and at times self deprecating"

    That's pretty much enough to make me want to pick this one up:) I love too that you never know who's next and that Johnson isn't afraid to eliminate characters you thought were safe for sure. Amazing review Heather, I can tell you put a lot of thought into it!

  4. Wow! Awesome review, Heather!! This has been on my to read list for awhile, i'm so glad it lives up!

  5. This sounds great! Love your review! The cover is really cool too! Adding this one to my TBR list :-)

  6. Jenny- Yes, I wanted to do the book justice! You will love Maureen's humor in it!

    Carrie- It's got the perfect balance of everything!

    Amber-Thanks! I loved the cover too. Definitely don't want to miss this one!

    Thanks for commenting!


  7. Oh I love the review! Your excitement really makes me know that this is a great book! I can just hit myself now for not picking this one up at netgalley.

    All I can say is that this review is a WIN! :)

  8. I'm so freaking jealous that you got to read this. I can't wait, can't wait, can't wait to get my hands on it. So happy to hear how good it was!

  9. Melissa- I could kiss you right now! Consider a big fat one from your favorite book guy right now planted on you!! Maybe one of those I read about yesterday! Thanks so much! A definitely pick this one up!

    Jessica- Pick this one up! You'll love it! I was really lucky to get this one from LT Early Reviewers.


  10. This is the first review I've read about this book. I ordered a copy from the UK cover! However, I like this one, too. Ooooo...I can't wait till it arrives...I think I'll rip right into. Okay, that was a bad joke but I just had to!


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