The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1)
By Maureen Johnson
Rory Deveaux moves from small-town Louisiana to London to attend boarding school. The day she arrives she finds out that the city is in the grip of a Jack the Ripper copycat who has killed a young woman, and Rippermania is soon running rampant all over the city. Rory soon has a run-in with the likely killer…and she’s the only one who can see him.
If there is any way to guarantee that I will want to read a book, watch a movie, tv show, etc., it just has to be about one subject: Jack. The. Ripper.
Jack the Ripper. Multiple murders and eviscerations aside, just the name alone is creepy as hell. Plus, he’s totally mysterious. Many people have guessed at his identity, but nobody really knows for sure who he was. He was never caught. To me, the ones who get away with it are always tons more interesting and scary than the ones who get caught. When I was a kid there was a commercial for Time Life Books that showed a man in a black cape stalking down a dark & foggy back alley, and that commercial used to scare the crap out of me (I scoured Youtube for it but with no luck, much to my dismay). It’s safe to say that Jack is a big reason why I was such a weird and macabre kid. When I saw that there was a YA book related to the Ripper lore I was all over it like a Bump-It on Snooki.
I don’t want to give away too many details about the book itself, but there are several twists and turns that I really enjoyed. Johnson does a great job of not leaving too many loose ends and providing good reasons for the bizarre occurrences (particularly why Rory can see people who no one else can). Rory is a very likeable protagonist, and for me that’s generally a huge factor in whether or not I like a book. I don’t want to spend hours of my life with someone I can’t stand, even if s/he is fictional. Rory is basically just a regular girl who feels a little like a stranger in a strange land. I was glad that there wasn’t a huge focus on romance, as I kind of think that it would have detracted from the story. There was definitely a love interest, but nothing too involved (and frankly, I’m rooting for a romance to spring up between Rory and another character who I won’t mention in order to avoid spoilers). I loved the ending of the book as well, because I love endings that I don’t see coming. And I definitely didn’t see this one coming. At all.
This is the first of Maureen Johnson’s books that I’ve read and I’m definitely going to seek out more, because I really like her writing style. She manages to be witty and somewhat snarky without being goofy or ruining the tension/creep factor. The next Shades of London book is due out in October 2012 and I can’t wait. Hopefully it has more Alistair.