Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review: The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1) by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Publishing Date: September 29th 2011
Length: 374 pages
Keywords: YA, thriller, mystery, ghosts, boarding school, London, Rippermania
Source: Bought

The day that Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school is also the day a series of brutal murders breaks out over the city, killings mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper spree 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--the only one who can see him. And now Rory has 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.

Summary by Goodreads  

I have finally joined in the modern Rippermania - took me long enough! The Jack the Ripper story Maureen Johnson created is one of a kind. It's not directly a retelling of the most famous murdering phantom of our history, but a new kind of  paranormal, mysterious, yet romantic, boarding-school story with a ghostly chill and thrilling modern day crime case. Maureen really did consider most of my favourite YA elements, man she's good!

The story begins with a murder comitted in frank sight of a CCTV camera, with the murderer remaining absent on the screen, invisible, like a ghost. And ghosts are definitely a major part of this very unconventional ghost story. I really liked the way Maureen Johnson rolled up the new Ripper’s story and how he came to commit all those murders, his methods and his motifs.
Maureen drew a pretty realistic picture of what such a thing as a new Ripper would mean to a city like London.

Of course THE NAME OF THE STAR wouldn’t be as intriguing and gripping as it is, if Maureen Johnson hadn’t processed the original Jack the Ripper cases and embedded them into Aurora's story in small and scary portions. I actually had to look up the crime scene picture of the Mary Kelly murder and a shudder went down my spine. I’m glad that Maureen wasn’t too reluctant on holding back the gory details for the modern day murders in London.

THE NAME OF THE STAR resembles a brilliant combination of wise chosen YA elements. The boarding school setting means a new start and an adventurous year abroad for Rory. Boarding schools are a symbol of romantic escapades, cat fights and the beginning of new friendships.
So Wexford as Rory’s new home for the next months was a perfect choice to set up the story. It’s located in London and with that makes it the center of public attention during the ongoing murder series. The crime and mystery factor of THE NAME OF THE STAR are pretty high set, although I wasn’t as scared as I hoped to be.
The 1st person point of view by Rory is supplemented by a few scenes from a 3rd person perspective on a witness or victim getting in contact with the new Ripper. They add to the overall touch of the murderer's creepy everpresence in the entire city of London.

The secondary characters are to some extend just as peculiar and amiable as Rory. We even get some romantic sparks. Can you believe it? A boarding school romance in London, hooray! I have to admit though, that I hoped for Rory to run off with a different guy out of her circle of new friends. Something about Stephen made me instantly feel drawn to him and I’m convinced Rory should feel that pull, too! The secret organization of ghost hunters he's a part of visibly enrichens the whole story.
I always imagined Rory to be like Maureen herself. Slightly eccentric, smart and jumping in front of a killer to safe her friends before even thinking about it for a second. She was exactly the right character choice for the story of the name of the star and I’m looking forward to new revelations about ghosts, her abilities, the organization behind the ghost hunter Team of Boo, Stephen and Callum and more crime cases.

1) it doesn't stint on ghastly details
2) of a suspenseful Rippermania revival
3) of peculiar Louisiana anecdotes
4) of a mysteriously alluring police officer
5) sometimes libraries become our new home


 5/5 ***** THE NAME OF THE STAR – Supremely satisfying and delightfully spooky!

This book gives you the creeps, but not in a bad way. Maureen Johnson invented some kind of pleasant creeps, that make you want to read on and on for the entire night, regardless the gory details and machinations of a crazy murderer mastermind. I could read a whole shelf full of these kind of books.

* You read THE NAME OF THE STAR and can't get enough of Maureen's ghostly London? Then don't miss the sequel, THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH released March 28th 2013.

* Read an excerpt of THE NAME OF THE STAR.

* Book trailer

* For further information about Maureen Johnson and her books, visit


  1. Omg I want this book now!! It sounds creepy, intriguing, and full of suspense which I like in a book. Awesome review. :)

    Little Book Star

  2. I's been a while since I last read a book like this! It sounds so unique and awesome- can't wait to read it. Great review :)

    - Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

  3. Aiiee, I'm pretty sure some of those details about Jack the Ripper would freak me right out! Heh, but I guess I would be okay with "pleasant creeps"! So glad that the author did her research well for this book!