Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson- Review

Maureen Johnson, super voice of YA lit, Twitter goddess, YA Saves founder, and until recently, totally non-represented on my bookshelves.  In fact, although I knew who she was, followed her on Twitter, and was generally amused by her antics, until the release of her latest book The Name of the Star, I had had no burning need to dive into her work.  But from the moment The Name of the Star hit shelves I knew I wanted to read it, so although it took me months to get to it, I bought it almost as soon as it released and then prayed to god it wouldn't end up in paperback before I got to it (always super embarrassing when that happens. YES, I have a problem. Obviously).  So when the Dewey Readathon swept around in April my first add on to my readathon list was NOTS, because nothing says late night reading like a bit of Jack the Ripper YA!

From Goodreads:
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London, it's the start of a new life at a 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.

The book opens with a great creepy scene stealer and then flips to Rory's somewhat bland arrival in London for her first year in boarding school.  I loved how Johnson jumped right into the action and how she played it out into Rory's arrival so that her trip is immediately tainted by Ripper mania, there's nothing better than a story that has you jump in with both feet right in the outset.  Also, it was dark and late and I was alone in my living room and I was already getting too creeped out to use the bathroom.  This was exactly what I was looking for!

NOTS isn't unrelentingly creepy though, which is good because I'm a bit of pansy when it comes to creepy things, there is a lot of great humor too.
"She's really fine," Boo said.  "Probably some period thing.  I go completely mental too.  Period fever.  It's the worst."
This effectively killed all conversation for a while...
"Fixed that," she said.
"You told him I had period fever," I replied.  "There's no such thing as period fever."
"No such thing as ghots either."
"No, there is really no such thing as period fever.  There's a difference between being a guy and being an idiot."
I mean, if you follow Johnson on Twitter you'd be disappointed if there weren't a few giggles, but I was relieved none the less.  I was especially entertained by some of the American/English jokes.
"Formal?" I said.
"Fancy dress means costumes," Jazza said.
It was clearly one of those mornings when I was particularly American.  That happens sometimes.
As someone who moved across the country, started a new school and lived in residence I can tell you that Johnson also hit the nail dead on with a whole host of the details.  Small things like Rory's comments about her "two incredibly large suitcases, both of which were heavier than I was and were marked with big orange tags that said HEAVY.", or many of the moments of culture shock were so familiar to me from my own experience that it had to have come from first hand experiences of her own.  Or she's crazy psychic, which is distinctly possible.  What I'm getting at here is that although it's a creepy ghost story with funny moments, Johnson has kept it firmly footed in the relatable world of the real, so that at no point was I pfting situations and thinking- Um? Hello? That's so make believe.

In the end I thoroughly enjoyed The Name of the Star, and can hardly wait for book two in the series to come out.  Also?  I've become a teeny bit fan girly and can't wait to see Maureen at the BEA this week (Wednesday 12:30-1! Booth 4), though I'm thoroughly disappointed it that there's no sneak peek at book 2. It's really going to be embarrassing this year how many books I'm going to get second copies of because I want them signed.  Thank god for the car!

The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson
Published by Putnam Juvenile, September 29th, 2011
Buy The Name of the Star on Amazon


  1. What a fun book to read! The main character, Rory's parents move to England for business and she decides to attend a private boarding school- to get the whole "English" experience. Shortly after moving in, bonding with her roommate, crushing on a guy, and secretly despising the resident "perfect" girl- tragedy hits London. Someone is murdering people in the same fashion and on the same days that Jack the Ripper struck years ago.

  2. Incredibly clever, compulsively entertaining cross genre tale that improbably combines Jack The Ripper, English boarding school, Louisiana tall tales, a secret branch of the UK government, the supernatural, and what purports to be a YA coming of age story. At times hilarious, disturbing and crazily page turning, it is surprisingly sophisticated and tons of fun.

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