Thursday, September 22, 2011
Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Tags: YA, paranormal, ghosts, murder, mystery, boarding school, London
Rory thought that the most difficult part of transferring to a fancy boarding school in London would be adjusting to the British culture and making friends. But it turns out that that autumn, her school’s neighborhood is the setting for a series of murders that almost exactly follow the Jack the Ripper murders from over a century ago. The murders gain international notoriety. Why hasn’t the murderer been caught on London’s extensive CCTV security camera system?
It turns out that Rory sees a murderer suspect whom no one else seems to be able to see. And then Rory gets recruited by a secret police group who explain to her the truth about the existence of ghosts…and the handful of people who can see and talk to them. Rory’s skills might help them catch the killer…but it’s a dangerous game they play with a murderer who can’t be killed—again.
I thought that I was done with stories about boarding schools, ghosts, and/or secret societies. But it turns out that all I needed was the expert hands of a talented author. THE NAME OF THE STAR introduces a freakishly delicious creepfest of a new series that had me gasping, shuddering, and turning pages almost faster than I could read them.
At first glance it seems like THE NAME OF THE STAR has the odds stacked against it. Rory’s a decent protagonist, though she doesn’t quite stand out; the plot doesn’t drag, but it does move languidly; and secondary characters can feel a little, well, secondary. But it’s a testament to Maureen Johnson’s skill that she can take all of these average-sounding elements and spin them together into a tight and suspenseful story.
I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m not much of a horror fan. But THE NAME OF THE STAR is just so creepy in its deliberate slowness that I found myself simultaneously wanting to squeeze my eyes shut and devour the book in one sitting. The person behind the murders is a true villain, very, very scary. I was biting my nails through the last two-thirds of this novel, and couldn’t even relax when Rory and her friends discovered the killer’s identity, that’s how dangerous this killer is.
If you’re a fan of horror, this is a must-read. If you enjoy Maureen Johnson’s novels, this is a must-read. Don’t miss out on this creepiest of creepy reads this fall.
Lee Nichols (Deception)
Carolyn McCullough (Once a Witch)
Cover discussion: Initially, I thought that this cover was simply mediocre, a tad too Photoshopped for my taste. After having read the book, however, this just creeps me out in a very good way. *grins*
Putnam Juvenile / Sept. 29, 2011 / Hardcover / 384pp. / $16.99
Won on LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program, sent by publisher.