Monday, 12 September 2011

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The Name of the Star
by Maureen Johnson

Release date: September 29th
Summary: The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London 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.

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 believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.
I’m kind of unsure about this book. I know that I really liked it, that it entertained me and I really, really want to read the sequel…and yet whenever I try to write this review, most of what I write is negative and I can’t think of many positive things to say. I guess it's maybe because while the negatives outnumber the positives, the positives carry more weight.

I’ve seen so many glowing reviews of this book, all five stars and gushing, and I think Maureen Johnson is awesome as a person and when the author it awesome, it makes me want to love their book. I didn't like her other book that I read, 13 Little Blue Envelopes (I am in the minority there so don't let that put you off), and while this book was way, way, way better, it still had some of the same issues for me.

I’m not the biggest fan of Maureen’s writing…it has its moments and it is funny at times, but sometimes it is very dull and filler-ish. I don’t connect to her characters at all - I mean, I like them (well, some of them) but there’s no emotional attachment, no empathy for them. I don’t root for them when it comes to romance, I don’t get scared for them when I should or feel sad when something bad happens… I just read the book, entertained by the plot but not emotionally involved in it at all.

Another point about the writing - some of the dialogue…at times it felt really fake. Particularly Jerome, it was like he was thrown into the story just to be a walking encyclopedia for all things Jack the Ripper. And then there was the dialogue near the end…and I can’t really explain it without spoiling it but if I didn’t need my hands to hold the book then I would’ve been face-palming at the big monologue a character gave and how out of place it seemed.

The relationships in the book - they’re very tell instead of show (especially the romance, although there isn’t much of that at all), with lots of summarizing instead of actual scenes. I just…I accept the fact that they’re friends and that the characters like who they like but so much of the story was skimmed over or left out completely that it didn’t feel like we got to see those relationships form (except maybe with Boo and Rory)…and while stuff like important interactions and scenes with other characters felt lacking, there was so much stuff thrown in that I truly did not give a damn about (like descriptions of buildings, school work/classes, her family back home).

The plot…I liked it. I had high expectations when I heard that it had some Jack the Ripper stuff happening in the plot - I expected it to be original but it was mostly just new names for stuff I’ve read before (the Jack the Ripper part was the only really original part to me). Basically, the plot was good and was probably a big part of the reason why I liked the book, it was just lacking the originality that I was expecting/hoping for.

See what I mean about the review being mostly negative? I don’t get it…I genuinely did really enjoy the book so why is the review not positive? My brain makes no sense. 

Once I got into it, I was hooked and the way it ended (while I do wish Rory put up more of a fight on a certain issue which left me frustrated) left me dying to read the sequel. It was a good book…it was entertaining enough that I liked it in spite of all those other things I mentioned (so I still really recommend it - most of the other reviews are really positive and if I can like it while having all these negative opinions then I'd say it's worth reading).

I’d rate it maybe 3.5 stars out of 5 (possibly 4 if I factor in my eagerness to read the sequel). And as I mentioned somewhere above, I am totally in the minority in having these negative issues with the book, there aren’t many negative reviews on goodreads, most of them are like 4 and 5 stars.

And I'll leave the review at that, I tried to expand on the positives and lessen the negatives but it just wasn't happening so I guess the review shall remain a long and rambling trainwreck. 


p.s. I have a question for English people: Does your school allow alcohol to be served at school dances? (And I don't mean sixth form colleges, I mean the schools that include those last two years/boarding schools) Because in the book, Maureen has written that they do at that school. Maybe it's different here in Scotland, but even though we're legally allowed to drink, our schools would never allow alcohol to be served on school grounds at a school event. I thought that was kind of odd in the book. So yeah, is England different from Scotland? Or did Maureen just write this school as very weird?


  1. This was my first book of hers and I was pretty excited since I followed her tweets regularly and thought she was pretty awesome. Sadly I just didn't like the book. Writing seemed geared towards children and I just didn't connect with the characters. I read one of her previous novels and had the same problem.

    As for the question, I heard they served alcohol at our school prom and at my brothers.

  2. @Aly - Yeah, I really think it's just a case of her writing not really being my thing.

    I mean, I hated 13 Little Blue Envelopes and all the issues I had with that book were present in this one, the only difference being that the plot kept me entertained...I can forgive mediocre writing and no connection to the characters if the plot entertains me (I blame that on growing up reading a stupid amount of Point Horror books and a shameful addiction to bad horror movies). =P

    I think there was alcohol at my school prom too, but our prom wasn't held on school grounds and the school year was basically over and we just had exams to sit - but a dance at halloween? No way would that be allowed.



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