Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

In case you don't want to read the rest of this, here's what you need to know: The Name of the Star is out TODAY and I LOVE IT and you should read it. If you want to get a taste first, you can read the first 78 pages at that link.

(First of all, let me say that I realize I am in no way impartial when it comes to Maureen's books, because I work for her. I will also point out, though, that the work I do for her is not directly related to the books at all, and that she was basically done with this one before I started working for her. BUT STILL. I am completely acknowledging my bias.)

All that said, I have to tell you: The Name of the Star is my favorite of Maureen's books so far. By a lot. As I've been telling people, it has all the awesomeness of her other books, WITH ADDED MURDER. And ghosts. And a British boarding school, and I love boarding school stories. But let me back up and tell you a little about the book. Our heroine, Rory, is an American girl who arrives for a year at a boarding school in London just as someone begins to mimic the Jack the Ripper murders. Her school happens to be right in the middle of Ripper territory, so she's thrown into the middle of it all. And then the ghost police show up, and things get really interesting.

And now I will give you a list of reasons why I love this book, because who doesn't love a list?

1. Rory is a great heroine - not annoyingly perfect or The Most Special Girl Ever, but certainly not boring either. She goes through a lot and learns and changes but remains realistic amid all the crazy stuff going on.
2. The setting: London! I love London! And schools! As I've mentioned!
3. There's a guy named Alistair, and I can't tell you much about him without ruining things, but he wears a trench coat and listens to The Smiths and lounges around the literature section of the library and I LOVE HIM MADLY.
4. I also love Rory's roommate Jazza. And some of her other schoolmates. And the folks on the ghost police force, actually.
5. The whole ghost and ghost police thing is really well done. I like my paranormal elements to have rules and be internally consistent and MAKE SENSE in context, and these did.
6. A truly frightening antagonist. I don't need ALL books to scare me, but I like when murder mysteries scare me at least a little.
7. Jack the Ripper was one of the first big cases really covered by the tabloids, and this update of what that sort of media coverage would look like now was really fascinating. (Some of the media reports get rather info-dumpy, and slow things down a bit, but if you have to have an info dump, I guess that's really the best way to do it.)
8. There's a sort of cliffhanger, but it's not the kind that is annoying or makes the book any less satisfying. It's the good kind that just adds a layer of awesomeness and makes you really eager for the next book.

Intrigued? You can find links to many places to get the book right here.

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