Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

This is another ARC I acquired in New Orleans. I remember getting this one because I was in a bit of a conundrum. Should I go get this book and meet Maureen, or go get in line for Ally Condie’s Crossed. I decided to get in line for this book (which started first) and then leave once I got the ARC, not actually getting to meet Maureen, before jumping into line for Ally Condie’s book. Thankfully, the lines were within a few yards of each other. I made friends with a librarian in line for Crossed, who took my Maureen Johnson ARC and got back into Maureen’s line, to get hers and mine autographed. I saved her spot in line for Crossed, and it was a win-win situation. Go librarian teamwork!
This book was so worth all that! I could not stop reading this book. And when I wasn’t reading it (because I was at work, or trying to sleep), I kept thinking about it. It wasn’t insanely thought provoking, just really creepy. I love supernatural stuff more than almost anything else. But, there’s something about a good ghost story that really gives me goose bumps and prevents me from sleeping. Another ghostly YA book that did this to me was Kelley Armstrong’s The Summoning. Ghost stuff has always creeped me out. Maybe because out of all the wonderful supernatural creatures that exist, they seem most likely? I don’t know.
The book comes out in September, so you don’t have much of a wait. And it’s another case where the publisher does not give the story justice on the back cover. I had read the back cover several times before reading this book, and I was really confused for the first few chapters because I was expecting a historical fiction novel. Upon reading the back just now, there’s never any mention of it taking place in the past; it just read that way I guess, and I can see that possibly being an issue in selling the thing, or maybe other people don’t get as confused as do. Or, maybe they already changed it for the final copy? Regardless, know that it takes place in current times, today.
It’s about Rory, a girl who moves to England for her last year in high school. Her parents get a job there, and Rory decides to go with them, but to attend a boarding school in London. This is a big move for her from Louisiana. And I love how sarcastic she can be about her heritage at times, especially when in comparison to her new friends from England. She’s sarcastic, but also loving of her weird relatives and their created religions and angel/aura readings. Around the same time Rory starts school, a series of murders begin taking place around London. Someone is copying the Jack the Ripper killings from 1888, and these killings of course all take place around Rory’s new school. And the book really plays on how much people enjoy watching news about death. There are parties eventually setup to keep an eye out for the next killer reportings. And people knew when to tune into the news because this serial killer is following the same dates and places of the original Jack the Ripper.
Amongst all the crazy news coverage, the American/British culture shocks, the cute boys, the ridiculous workloads for all the students planning for their A-Levels (the book briefly summarizes the British educational system), the agonizing hockey Rory is forced to play outside in the cold rain, and the bond Rory forges with her roommate, Jazza, is the underlining current of supernatural spookiness. The supernatural spookiness begins with Rory’s seeing of a man outside her dormitory on the night of the second murder. The man was right in front of her and Azza, but only she could see and hear him. She soon realizes she sees lots of people that her friends can’t, and learns that after a somewhat embarrassing almost choking to death experience, she has been given the “gift” of seeing the dead. And what’s more terrifying than the idea that Rory not only saw the murderer, but saw the murderer and knows he is a ghost?
There’s a secret police of London that involves a crew of ghost hunters. There’s magical cell phones turned weapons, chases around London, fun pub scenes, scary London Underground scenes, plenty of dead people, murder, escapes, adventures, and so much more here.
I loved the ending (though it’s book 1 in a trilogy). I loved the characters. I loved all of the Harry Potter reminiscent British lingo.  I liked that the killer wasn’t completely un-understandable; he was crazy, but not overly so. It all felt possible and real.
The one thing that bothered me a little bit was the small contradictions that happened every now and then. For instance, it would be impossible for the girls to cross a square to get to the boy’s dorm when everyone is on tight surveillance due to the killings, but it was not hard at all for the art history professor to take a class of teens on the Underground to an art museum for a field trip. And it was totally fine that Rory left the museum on her own to follow some strangers, and to come back to school when she was ready without really having to explain about where she went or why she did anything she did. If surveillance is so tight that the students are never allowed to leave, it should be hard for field trips to be happening, even the very educational kind. And Rory certainly should have gotten into trouble for leaving said field trip.
Other than that, this book was fantastic. It was sarcastic, clever, spooky, and addicting. I look forward to book 2. And I highly recommend this book to fans of Kelley Armstrong and Cassandra Clare. I give it a 9/10.

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