The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Lynn: It is only fair to warn you – if you have deadlines, important obligations or responsibilities, don’t start The Name of the Star (Penguin/Putnam 2011)!  I guarantee that once you start reading, you will set aside everything else.  Damn the deadlines, full speed ahead!  I won’t disclose all the major tasks I ignored but let me just say that Maureen Johnson is totally at fault for my late reviews for the November issue!  Honestly – it wasn’t MY fault that I couldn’t put this book down!  She gave me everything I love in a book:  a smart sarcastic narrator, compelling suspense, humor, a little romance, a really original twist on a much abused genre, a terrific setting and multidimensional characters that develop throughout the course of the book.  I couldn’t help myself.

Here’s the storyline.  Louisiana-teen Rory Deveaux arrives to attend Wexford boarding school in London during her parents’ sabbatical year in England.  It’s a huge adjustment but Rory is settling in despite nearly choking to death on a piece of English sausage.  Then a Jack-the-Ripper style killer strikes London and Rory realizes she is a witness.  But why didn’t her friends notice him?  When the killer strikes again, Rory is pulled deeper into the investigation conducted by a hush-hush-oh-so-secret branch of the government when she makes two discoveries:  she can see ghosts and the killer is now targeting her!

See!  It wasn’t my fault!  Who could possibly resist that?  Be further warned.  Johnson will make trouble for us in the future too.  This is the start of series – The Shades of London – so more temptation lies ahead.  I’m just saying – It won’t be MY fault!

Cindy: Blame me. I don’t care. I can’t resist a Maureen Johnson book. She always speaks to my inner 15-year-old and that girl is never lurking far away. I have to admit that I was just a tad worried by this genre departure for her, but that was silly. I’d do better to worry about what is going to happen to Rory in the sequel! Boarding school settings represent a fantasy world all their own for most of us, and then when you add ghosts and the habits of an infamous killer you have a page turner as Lynn raves. I enjoyed the secondary characters here, too, especially Alistair who hangs out in the poetry section of the school’s library.

But I will not take the blame for skipping out on the rest of my chores for today…it’s not my fault. I just discovered the Casebook website, which claims to the world’s largest public repository of Jack the Ripper information. If you need me today, you’ll know where to find me..



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

1 Comment on "The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson"

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  1.' Laura W. says:

    I was totally sucked in when I picked this one up–so much so that I recommended it to a parent who was asking about books the next day. She zoomed through it and came it to tell me that she’s now on s serial killer jag . . . reading everything she can get her hands on about them. That led to an interesting discussion of the hook that gets kids cruising through all kinds of books. This one is definitely one of those books.

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