The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Louisiana native, Aurora Deveaux (Rory for short) travels to the bustling city of London to start her senior year at Wexford, a premiere boarding school, whilst her parents teach at a university in Bristol. As she acclimates to her new life at Wexford with the help of her new friends, Jazza and Jerome, a series of brutal murders hit London. However, these murders are far from ordinary as each of the murders mirror the notorious Jack the Ripper murders, and the perpetrator continues to elude the ever-present eye of the CCTV cameras.
What starts out as far-fetched theory suddenly turns into mass hysteria, and no one in London is safe. Rory thinks nothing of the murders until the night that she returns to her dorm and she sees a man that Jazza claims not to. Suddenly, Rory finds herself twisted into the fabric of an elaborate game with no way out. As she is forced to confront the danger of solving the classic game of “whodunit,” Rory delves into the darker side of London’s past.
“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.”
“I decided to deflect her attitude by giving a long, Southern answer. I come from people who know how to draw things out. Annoy a Southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death.”
“Keep calm and carry on. Also, stay in and hide because the Ripper is coming.”
“The English play hockey in any weather. Thunder, lightening, plague of locusts…nothing can stop the hockey. Do not fight the hockey, for the hockey will win.”
I picked up this book while wandering around Face in a Book (http://www.getyourfaceinabook.com/) and decided that the plot seemed vastly different from anything else sitting on my bookshelf at home, so I figured that I would give it a whirl. I started reading while I was on vacation in Carmel, and I was quickly drawn into Rory’s life at Wexford and her adventures in new country. Ironically, I began to lose interest as soon as the plot began to take off. As I kept reading, my disdain for the book grew. Around page 300, I was praying for the end.
The problem is, the reader should never be praying for the plot to pick up or the book to end. I firmly believe that it is the author’s job to keep the reader enticed and wanting more. That being said, (or in this case, written) The Name of the Star will not be on my list of books that I would recommend.
My main issue with this novel is that the author did not seem to utilize the setting and characters to the best of her ability. I would have loved if she would have taken more time to describe the buildings of Wexford or the city of London. Heck, I would have even been happy reading more about the weather. For me, part of this book’s allure was that it was set in London; a place I have always wanted to travel and immerse myself in, and reading this book gave me no further insight into the streets of London aside from a pub here or there. I think that if the author would have set aside time to describe the impact the city had on the events, the plot would have been far more interesting and cohesive.
In addition, there was little character development to be found. Rory begins as an interesting girl from the south who I desperately wanted to know more about, but as the book progressed I felt as though she became more and more closed off to the reader. Perhaps this was intentional or perhaps it was not, but either way, I found myself lacking an emotional connection to Rory which therefore made the story a little harder to read through. As the plot moves forward, Rory suffers through many horrific and strange events, however, she does not reflect on any of it, nor does she even act remotely bothered.
Overall, this book was extremely disappointing and a struggle to finish, however, I really was a fan of the ideas and setting within it. Although I do not plan on continuing the series, I would test out a couple of passages to see if it gets better.