Monday, 26 August 2013

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The Name of the Star (2011) (HarperCollins Children's Books)
Maureen Johnson
Grade: A
Genre: YA
Source: own
Shades of London: (1) The Name of the Star, (2) The Madness Underneath

Aurora 'Rory' Devereux is an American in England and about to start school during the worst time to be in London. Someone is committing Jack the Ripper-style murders, replicating the scenes almost down to the name of the victim. Wexford is bang in the middle of the crime scenes, and Ripper tours are passing by the gates every day, with everyone on the edge waiting for the next date of when the second murder took place.

The work might be harder than what she’s used to back at home in Louisiana, but she’s got her new best friend and roommate Jazza, who’s more than happy to talk for hours about Jane Austen over a cup of tea in their room. Then there’s Jerome: prefect, budding journalist and dedicated follower of the Ripper murders who’s got the hots for Rory – and she feels the same way. Then Rory is the sole witness when the second Ripper victim prematurely meets their maker, and her life isn’t the same again …

This is no ordinary murderer at work, and the ordinary police won’t be able to catch him. The result of a near-death experience (isn’t it always?) Rory has been given a mind-blowing ability that while useful in this situation, isn’t something that she’ll be able to whip out as a party-trick – if anything, men in white suits would be on the horizon. Will she and the special police squad of Stephen, Callum and Boo be able to stop this killer while aceing her exams? And will Rory be able to keep her new-found talent a secret to keep out of the loony bin?

This was fabulous. I’ve read one other Maureen Johnson book (The Bermudez Triangle, 2007) but she’s always been an author that I’ve wanted to read more of because of the great hype that surrounds her and her books. When I saw both The Name of the Star and The Madness Underneath (review on its way) in the HarperCollins staff bookstore, I pounced like a madwoman. Boy, was it worth it.

After S.J. Bolton’s Now You See Me, I’ve a thirst for Jack the Ripper stories. London’s most notorious murderer, with everyone still none-the-wiser over a hundred years later, has spurned masses of stories – fiction and non-fiction. Every writer is going to put their own spin on their work, especially because of the flexibility afforded to them by history, and Maureen Johnson’s version was particularly thrilling.

I’m not going to give too much away, because that little detail is really the crux of the story that makes this series unique. What I will say is that Ms Johnson did well in creating this world and characters and making her mark in the literary sea of Jack the Ripper stories. Fantastic atmosphere, chilling story, fabulous characters and love the interpretation of English boarding school.

Some of the best YA paranormal I've read in a while, and it has definitely made me want to read more of Maureen Johnson. Really, really excited for book two - it helps that the cover is so beautiful and Jerome is so hot!

Image courtesy of Book Depository

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