Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam
Publication Date: September 29, 2011
Series: Shades of London #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at 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 work of Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.

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 now believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, what is he planning to do about her?
The Name of the Star is a supernatural thriller with interesting characters, a classic setting, and a terrifying villain.

Rory Deveaux is a girl of my own heart. She's from a southern Louisiana rural town. She talks a lot. She likes to eat. And she's got a pretty great sense of humor. So of course I liked her, for the most part. My problems with Rory lie not in her character but in the portrayal of her background which I find to be almost wholly inaccurate, being from South Louisiana myself. I'll get to those later. But overall, I found her to be a sympathetic and enjoyable protagonist. The secondary characters are mostly well done, as well. Boo and the other Shades are probably my favorites because they have the best-developed personalities. I also liked Rory's roommate, Jazza, who is studious and sort of meek but is also a great friend to Rory. Jerome, Rory's current love interest, is probably the least well-developed and my least favorite, though he does show some personality and may have been a lot more interesting if there were more of him in the story. The relationship shared between Jerome and Rory is built more on making out than actual emotional attractions. Though I don't have any reason to dislike Jerome, I favor a different dude and I'm hoping future books will lead Rory in that direction.

I really like the setting and the plot. Rory is in a London boarding school (awesome!) and someone is running around recreating the Jack the Ripper murders from 1888 (creepy!). I don't know how accurate the London atmosphere that Johnson creates is since I've never been to London, but it feels believable to me. A lot more believable than, say, the portrayal of Rory's Louisiana background, with which I have some gripes: Nobody from Louisiana calls them "crayfish". I don't care what the technical spelling is (though both spellings are in the dictionary), if you want authentic Louisiana, you say "crawfish". This is a huge faux pas to me as far as authenticity goes, especially since it's a pretty easy thing to learn and fix. (I admit my final copy has yet to arrive so I do not know if this has changed between the ARC and finished version, but something causes me to doubt that it has. If any of you have the answer to this, please let me know.) Rory's weirdo family feels more like any small town family that happens to include many bizarre relatives, and not like a small town cajun family. Except that she lives in a town built on swampland that constantly floods (I imagine that I can thank Katrina for this) and at one point finds an alligator in her backyard. Of course, she does. I'm not saying that these things are never true, but it seems like when authors try to portray Louisiana they always resort to swamps and gators and voodoo - "local color", as my professors called it, and it's becoming a little too platitudinal for me. There are a few other things that I can nitpick over that bothered me, but I won't continue this rant any further than I already have. Just know that I have some discrepancies with that part of the story, which is a pretty small part of the book, but one to which I am particularly close.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for various inaccuracies and cliches regarding Rory's background, I found the rest of The Name of the Star to be wholly enjoyable. The characters are generally sympathetic and interesting and likable. The plot is a little scary and a little exciting. I like the supernatural aspect of the story, which blends well with the atmosphere and never feels forced or out of place. I like the way that it ends - conflict is resolved, but Rory makes a discovery about herself in the last pages that gives readers a good idea about where the series will go from here. I'll be picking up the sequel. I'd recommend it to fans of Maureen Johnson, as well as lovers of supernatural books and thrillers. It makes for an awesome Halloween read, as well.


  1. I've heard this one is actually pretty creepy, which has me a little worried, but the London setting sounds pretty awesome! I'm pretty sure I'll read it someday in the future.
    That sucks that the little things got to you, but that happens when you are from the same place as a character or when a book is set in the state you live in. It's hard to overlook them. But it sounds like you still really enjoyed it, so that's good!

  2. This book was something I enjoyed reading as well :)

  3. Hmmmm I read a finished copy, but I don't remember if it was crayfish or crawfish. I actually remember that part of the book and I was like "crawfish!" because I've been to New Orleans before and the local church we were staying with made us this big crawfish dinner. Anyyyyway, it's annoying when books or movies are so stereotypical about certain locations. Believe me, being from Canada I would know all about that, haha.

    But yah, I really really enjoyed this book! It was the perfect mix of a lot of different things, and once the supernatural element came into play I couldn't put it down. Oh and I totallllly agree with you re: the romance angle. Jerome was okay, but I totally favour a certain other boy as well.

  4. @Ashley - I bet we're thinking of the same guy! I'd love to see that slowly develop into something more as the series progresses.

  5. Haha, it's funny because I live in London and work in the kind of sixth-form that Rory goes to, so there were lots of little things that I spotted as wrong from my end, too. Luckily, it didn't detract from the story too much.


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