Monday, July 2, 2012

REVIEW: The Name of the Star by @maureenjohnson

Johnson, M.  (2011).  The Name of the Star.  New York:  G.P. Putnam's Sons.

372 pages.

Appetizer:  The eyes of London are watching.  However they somehow didn't capture the death of a woman who was killed in the same brutal style that Jack the Ripper used in 1888.

Rory, who has just arrived in London to spend her senior year at Wexford Boarding School near the location of the original Ripper's attacks, hears the news on the way to her new school.  Over the next several weeks, as Rory settles into school and befriends her roommate Jazza, all of London awaits a possible second murder by the Jack the Ripper copycat.  An attack does come and through circumstances *cough* sneaking out of the dorm *cough* Rory is the only witness (despite her friend being present) to see a strangely dressed man near the scene.

What put it simply...drama ensues.

I thought The Name of the Star had a really strong opening with a description of all of the surveillance in London quickly followed by a woman discovering the dead body of a woman killed in the style of the Jack the Ripper slayings.  My enthusiasm faded a little with the start of the actual first chapter.  Rory's voice wasn't quite as immersing.  Although it was awesome that she was from Louisiana (Yay, Louisiana!!!!  There needs to be more representation of my adopted state in YA and children's literature!).  I personally didn't need to hear about her getting situated into her dorm.  I also thought it may have been more fun if her stories about her family back in Louisiana were shared more in conversations instead of as exposition (I did like the way she incorporated a lot of Louisiana experiences into chapter fact, I would have been fine with that being the main way her past was explored).  Some of my waning interest in the first few chapters could be due to my age.  I've moved into multiple dorms over the years and met multiple new roommates, so unless the dorm involves magic--like Hogwarts!!!!YAY!!!!!!!--then I'm not too interested.

But, I was once again super-engaged and interested when the mystery started to heat up again.  I really like the way the news coverage and influence of the media was incorporated into the rest of the novel.  I also really liked the ending and am looking forward to the second book.

I do have one detail issue with the first half of the book though.  I can't be too specific for fear of providing a major spoiler, but I do wonder why the killer's first victims went with him.  Based on the big reveal about the killer, I was left wondering how he controlled the women.  But that's all I'll reveal, unless someone would like to have a spoiler-riffic discussion in the comments.

Also, to help get a visual of the setting of The Name of the Star, here's a tour that Maureen Johnson went on with some readers:

Also, if you don't follow Maureen Johnson on twitter, you really should.  She will stare at you until you follow her.  Then, she'll probably stare at you after.  But it will be slightly less creepy by then.

Dinner Conversation:

"The eyes of London were watching Claire Jenkins.  She didn't notice them, of course.  No one paid attention to the cameras.  It was an accepted fact that London has one of the most extensive CCTV systems in the world.  The conservative estimate was that there were a million cameras around the city, but the actual number was probably much higher and growing all the time.  The feed went to the police, security firms, MI5, and thousands of private individuals--forming a loose and all-encompassing net.  IT was impossible to do anything in London without the CCTV catching you at some point." (p. 1)

"Jack the Ripper struck for the second time very early on September 8, 1888.
That last fact was hammered home in about seventeen thousand ways.  I didn't even watch the news and yet, news just got in.  And the news really wanted us to know about the eighth of September.  The Eighth of September was a Saturday.  And I had art history class on Saturday.  This fact seemed much more relevant to my life, being unused to the idea of Saturday class.  I had always assumed the weekend was a holy tradition, respected by good people everywhere.  Not so at Wexford." (pp. 61-62)

"It didn't take a great deal of insight to know that Jazza was not going to want to go to a crime scene that evening.  She was, to use the vernacular, a normal person." (p. 66)

"Gators are just something you have to accept where I come from.  Most don't go anywhere near the houses, even though there are lots of delicious children and dogs there.  Every once in a while, though, an alligator has a lightbulb moment and decides to take a stroll and see the world a bit.  One day when I was eight or so, I opened the back door, and I saw this thing way at the end of the yard.  I remember thinking it was a big black log--so, of course, I went down to look at it, because what's more exciting than a big log, right?  I know.  Children are stupid." (p. 154)

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

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