Mini Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The Name of the Star
Maureen Johnson

Putnam Juvenile
Released September 29, 2011
372 pages
YA / Supernatural / Mystery

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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.

Maureen Johnson is an interesting author. Her Twitter account is pretty hysterical and, despite adoring her as a person, somehow I hadn’t managed to read any of her work until the ghost story of The Name of the Star crossed my path. This story about a fish-out-of-water girl suddenly finding herself in the sights of a potential serial killer in modern day London was surprising yet somehow predictable. It still had that Maureen Johnson humor though, so I was thoroughly entertained.

For some reason while reading this book, I was thinking in accents, so the combination of a backwater Cajun accent mixed with prim and proper boarding school British accents distracted me for a little while, but as the plot picked up, I stopped getting in my own way. Rory is your standard young adult protagonist just with the added ability to see ghosts after a near-death experience. When a copycat of Jack the Ripper starts terrorizing the area around her new boarding school home, she’s the only one who can see the culprit.

The book really starts to get interesting when the supernatural investigators turn up, others who can see the ghosts that seem to follow Rory around. Rory stopped becoming so misunderstood and finally was able to flourish as a character around people who could also communicate with the ghosts haunting London. The climax of the story left me unable to really put the book down as Rory became the hero of her own story instead of the unwilling victim. While the conclusion didn’t leave me on the edge of my seat wanting the sequel, I was satisfied with the ending. There are still doors cracked open for the continuation of the series, but it felt finished at the same time.

This would appeal to YA readers who enjoy a good mystery with supernatural elements. Rory is a solid protagonist and the Jack the Ripper tie-in is well-researched for suitable levels of creepiness. This is a solid standalone as well as the beginning of a fun series.