Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson

Publisher's blurb:
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events 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. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory 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.

Overall reaction:  I found this book more enjoyable than at least the last two books I've read alone.  (Reading a book with someone is such a different experience from reading alone that I tend to keep the two separate in my informal assessment.) It's got boarding schools, England, and the paranormal-- always a winning combination.  ;o)  It's the first in a series, apparently, so I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.

More Specific Observations, Reactions, Etc.:

•  This is classified as YA-- probably mostly because the main characters are all young adults.  The writing was (much) better than in the not-quite-YA Feed (my last previous read).  Just a reminder not to let the YA classification turn you off from a book.  Some YA literature is well worth an adult's time, just as some "non-YA" literature isn't worth anyone's time-- or deserving of the being called literature, really.

•  I guessed some of the twists early on-- but that didn't affect my enjoyment of the story-- and other plot developments were appropriately surprising. 

•  It felt like there was quite a bit of drinking and/or reference to alcoholic beverages for YA... But then again, I don't read that much modern YA, so I don't have much for comparison.  Also, the story is set in England, where the laws for who can drink and when are different.  Still, there was enough of it to get my attention.  ~shrug~

•  The "period fever" bit made me laugh, as did several other bits.

•  The references to the Spice Girls might as well have been in a foreign language.  I vaguely recognized some of the names, but that was about it.  And I was in high school during the height of their popularity (in the U.S., at least)!  Obviously I was too busy studying daydreaming / doodling / re-reading L.M. Montgomery to be Little Miss Cool Pop Culture.

•  Most Memorable Quote:  "Fear can't hurt you," she said. "When it washes over you, give it no power. It's a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you." 

Spoiler-Filled Comments:

•  The idea of ghosts who can interact significantly with the physical world-- send packages, injure people-- is kind of new (to me, at least).  I'm used to the "traditional" ghost who has a hard time manipulating objects.

•  I was a little sad when the best-friend roommate dynamic between Rory and Jazza was disturbed by the entrance of Boo, and at this point in the story, I doubt it will ever be the same again.  That's a fairly accurate portrayal of how things do work, though.

•  In addition to the references to alcohol, there was also some (light? can't recall) cursing.  I'm not saying it's not realistic for teens, but I'm still not crazy about it.  But whatever... It's just the sort of thing I don't think I'd love to find in books intended for my theoretical kids.  (And now every person reading this is instantly thankful s/he is not my theoretical child.)  Of course, the subject matter itself (murder, near-death experiences, suicide) is obviously not best-suited for young YA-readers.  That said, when I think back to the books I read as a teen or pre-teen, I must admit that some of them were pretty dark... 

•  I know some people hate it when readers or viewers "ship" book or TV-program characters-- and I'm certainly not obsessive about it-- but I can't help but think "those two should be together" when I watch/read.  It's part of the enjoyment of watching/reading.  So I'll admit that I would like to see Rory and Stephen as a couple.  Or even Rory and Alistair the Grumpy Ghost.  Jerome is just boring (and he was way too focused on the whole Ripper thing, which was a little creepy)...  ETA:  Um, except I guess that now that Rory is a living "terminus"/Ghost Zapper™, a relationship with a ghost (grumpy or not) would be even more complicated... Well, that was never going to happen, anyway, was it?  I'm putting all my chips on Stephen.  (g)

•  Isn't it convenient when the Bad Guy uses less immediately lethal measures against the most important characters?  Or the protagonist miraculously manages not to bleed to death despite having a 1.5-foot slash across her abdomen?  But since the alternative is that the main characters would be killed off more often, I shouldn't complain.  (I don't usually like it when the main characters die.  How uncultured of me!)

So, in closing:  I liked it!  I don't know if any of Maureen Johnson's other books/series are comparable, but I'll give them a try while I wait for the next installment in the "Shades of London" series to come out.