Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam & Sons
Publication Date: 2011
Price: $16.99 (hardcover) $9.99 (paperback) $9.99 (audio)
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery
Interest Age: 12 and up
Lexile Level: 710
Annotation: On Rory Deveaux first day in London, a murderer struck mimicking Jack the Ripper.
Plot Summary: Aurora “Rory” Deveaux has spent her life growing up in a small town in Louisiana where gators are common and she’s surrounded by her quirky family members from her aunt who runs an angel business to her uncle who owns eight freezers and doesn’t believe in banks. When her parents get a job teaching in England, she gets a choice to stay or go. Rory decides to go and she arrives in London at the worst possible time. The day she lands in London is the same day a murderer has struck London. Not just any killer, but one that is copying the work of Jack the Ripper. All anyone can talk about is the Ripper copycat and despite the presence of cameras everywhere, there are few leads and even fewer witnesses. Until Rory sees a man one night the same night a body was found. Soon she gets caught in the middle of “Rippermania” and a very top secret police force.
Critical Evaluation: In short, The Name of the Star, takes a gruesome topic (Jack the Ripper) and ghosts spinning it in Johnson’s trademark clever and humorous manner. To elaborate, the Jack the Ripper plot line could easily veer into the macabre with elaborate details about the killer’s methodology, victims, etc. yet it never gets that way. There is touches of grim, but Maureen Johnson also infuses the story with humor that it balances out. I also enjoy the way Johnson approaches the ghost mythology. It’s unique and believable – well, as much as ghosts are. I also enjoy Johnson’s characters. Rory’s voice is comical, strong, and unique. Her tangents about life in Louisana and her quirky family levy the chilling atmosphere set by the strange murders. However, Johnson doesn’t put her eggs in one basket. I really enjoy my time with her cast of secondary characters from Claudia, the field hockey loving house-mom, to Charlotte, the prim head girl. Additionally the way romance is handled is a bonus. It is not girl-meets-boy and “I’ll love you forever” kind of romance, which seem to dominate YA literature. Rather it’s “you’re cute so let’s just make out since it probably is one of the more normal things going on in my life right now”. The romance does not dominate the story line.
Author Bio: Maureen Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of eleven young adult novels, as well as several coauthored works. She lives in New York City and spends far too much time online. (via Ingram)
Tie to Curriculum Units: N/A
Booktalking Ideas: Jack the Ripper, Ghosts, London, New Kid, Boarding School,
Challenge Issues: The Name of the Star has been nominated for various state awards and garner positive reviews including this from VOYA “Although the author mines some familiar tropes here, like snooty boarding schools, ghost busting, and seeing dead people, she does so with enough flair that nothing seems tired or recycled. Best of all, although some threads are left open for the rest of the series, the main story is concluded thoroughly enough to let this novel stand on its own, something that is rare in the series-laden literary landscape of today.”