{Review} The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The Name of the Star by Maureen JohnsonI love a good mystery, so when Maureen Johnson takes it to another level creating her witty and fun paranormal young adult thriller The Name of the Star, I was instantly hooked.

Aurora (who prefers Rory) Deveaux comes from Louisiana, the land of all things fantastical and magical, a place where her uncle has eight freezers filled with everything from batteries to milk intended to get him through another Hurricane Katrina (no worries about electricity going out) and an aunt who sees various angels of several hues designating their place on a spectrum from good to not-so-good. With this background, nothing should come as a surprise to Rory.

But, surprised she is.

It’s Rory’s senior year of high school. Her parents have an opportunity to teach at a university in England for a year, so off they go to a place more laden with ghosts of the past than Louisiana could ever scare up. She’s installed in Wexford, an elite prep school where she becomes embroiled in a mystery dating back to 1888: Jack the Ripper.

It’s “nasty business…Wexford is right in Jack’s old hunting grounds.” London’s dark and eery fog and dismal underground tunnels bring forth an evil and sinister creature who stalks the living to fulfill his dreadful undead desires. Or so it appears to the legions of terrified Londoners who believe Jack is back…

While the mysterious Jack the Ripper returns to forage for living victims, to take their lives in the same place and manner that occurred over a hundred years earlier, other ethereal beings dwell in London. 

Rory has a special skill acquired from a near-death experience. She can see and communicate with those who wander in limbo. Her special skill allows her to see and communicate with ghostly wanderers, the good, the bad and those somewhere in between. These souls are as varied as the living.

Whether you believe that the living can communicate with or see ghosts or whether they hang around indefinitely after meeting their human demise isn’t important. The storytelling of Rory’s brush with Jack the Ripper, or whatever it is, is so skillfully woven with people and specters you will believe in them whiel you’re reading The Name of the Star. The streets of London come to life, vivid and colorful… and scary.

Besides being a fun mystery, The Name of the Star is full of good humor.

Rory’s not an athlete and finds herself participating as a goalie on the field hockey team at her new school, much to her chagrin. A goalie, she believes whose sole purpose is dodging the balls as they come flying toward her.

Wry wit and endearing, funny scenes like this populate the novel, making it standout in a sea of “bleh” YA paranormals and left me grinning much in the way Rosemary Clement-Moore’s fun novels do.

Maureen Johnson’s created a cast of characters that I love.

They’re kooky and brilliant. I want to know more about all of them, especially the girl-ghostbuster Rory. However, when I closed the final page, I felt dissatisfied. What the heck? It’s over and I want to know more about the very, very intriguing things we learn at the conclusion of The Name of the Star. (I wouldn’t say this ends in a cliffhanger, but there are definitely many, many things that left me wanting more, more, more.)

No worries. There’s a sequel in the works. (I sure wish Sarah has remembered to tell me this when she recommended The Name of the Star to me. *ahem*) I eagerly await The Madness Underneath, due out early next year. 

While the world of Johnson’s created with this series requires a bit of suspension of disbelief, suspend it and you’ll be rewarded with a delightful, entertaining world of foggy London, eccentric spirits and characters that make you tremble and laugh. 

FNL Character Rating: Tyra in Training

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