Johnson, Maureen. The Name of the Star. Putnam Juvenile, 2011. 372 p. Grades 8-12. Mystery/Paranormal.
Rory, a Louisiana girl, moves London and attends a boarding school for her senior year of high school. Then ‘Rippermania” starts and people are getting murdered in the same way they were over a hundred years ago. Rory is the only witness to one of the murders andbecomes the new target for the Ripper.
The best part of The Name of the Star is the vast audience it will appeal to, because it has a little bit of everything thrown into it. It is a murder mystery, a romance, and it has elements of the paranormal and history all wrapped into one amazing novel. I think boys and girls alike would enjoy this book. The murder mystery aspect and the pull of ‘the name of the star’ (Jack the Ripper) will entice boys to want to read this novel.
As a reader you can tell that Johnson did a lot of research into the Jack the Ripper. It made the story more realistic. I also really liked that instead of just flat out telling us this information, she imparts it through Jerome. Using a character that is fascinated by the history of Jack the Ripper makes the reader care more about it. It is much more effective, not only as giving information but also as character development for a secondary character.
Rory is phenomenal main character. She has gumption and is willing to do what’s right and roll with the punches. My favorite part of the novel is when she figures out that she is seeing ghosts. She doesn’t freak out necessarily but how she handles herself makes you believe in her as a character and laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of the situation. Her demeanor is funny, without being over the top. Johnson managers to insert humor into what are pretty dark topics of ghosts and murderers.
One of my only problems with this novel is that it had a bit of a slow beginning. The first half or so is Rory settling into boarding school and getting to know her roommate. While this was interesting, it would have been nice to start the action earlier. However, it is the first novel in a trilogy, which necessitates the world building of the boarding school and the character development to be able to have action in the other the novels.