Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johson

 I've been going into the library and grabbing a few books without reading the back cover or checking out reviews beforehand. This  pick was another example of me judging a book by it's cover and having a completely wrong idea of what it was about....and being delightfully surprised by my wrongness.

I thought it was set in Victorian London. It's not.
And I thought it would be kind of serious and gloomy.  Nope.

The Name of the Star full of humor, quirky but not outrageous characters, an interesting murder mystery, and best of all: a boarding school.

Y'all, give me a British boarding school and I am such a happy camper. It's probably some of my residual Harry Potter obsession that I will never, ever get over completely.
Not that I would want to, obviously.
By the way: I want this shirt!

if you get this reference, comment and we will be automatic bff's
Anywhoot, Maureen Johnson pretty much hooked me on page one with this quote:

In my town, Benouville, Louisiana (pronounced locally as Ben-ah-VEEL; population 1,700), hurricane preparations generally include buying more beer, and ice to keep that beer cold when the power goes out. We do have a neighbor with a two-man rowboat lashed on top of the porch roof, all ready to go if the water rises--but that's Billy Mack, and he started his own religion in the garage, so he's got a lot more going on that just an extreme concern for personal safety.

(Maybe it's because I live in a tiny town in the rural Deep South, but that paragraph just delighted me to no end. The Southern way to say that is: y'all, that tickled me to death!)

I was instantly a fan of Rory, the protagonist. She's smart, but in a realistic way. Her inner commentary sounds like an intelligent, funny, witty sixteen-year-old and not an adult trying to sound like a witty teen. There's a difference.

Rory describes her new world at school with interesting but not overwhelming detail. Her friends were likable, and I thought they were pretty three-dimensional characters. Although Jerome is kind of flat for me, but really, he's not that big of a player in the plot once it gets rolling.

I can't resist...Here's another great quote:

I looked at the stained-glass image of the lamb in the window above me, but that only reminded me that lambs are famous for being led to slaughter, or sometimes hanging out with lions in ill-advised relationships.

Oh, Maureen Johnson...can we hang out somtime??

I also love how the paranormal aspect of the plot takes a long time to show up. You don't know for quite a while that anything supernatural is going on. It's just Rory and her attempts to fit in at boarding school, then a murder mystery, then BAM! creepy stuff!
For me, this is a bonus. I like when the paranormal shows up later, once you've been lulled into thinking you know what's going on, then you find out there's way more happening than you thought. That's one thing I enjoyed about Nevermore by Kelly Creagh. (Which, by the way, would make an excellent Halloween read.)

Content: One thing I wasn't crazy about was the drinking in the book, which is an accepted part of Rory's life at school. At least no one got down and out drunk, just tipsy, but still I wanted to note that in the review.
There was not much profanity and nothing beyond a few kisses. It's unusual to come across a YA book that doesn't feature a heavy-handed romantic subplot. Sure, Rory and Jerome are a couple but they don't think they're soulmates destined for eternity together. They're a couple of kids who like and spending time with each other...and kissing each other. Personally, I'm pulling for her to end up with Stephen in future books in the series.

As for the Jack the Ripper aspect: eeeekkkkk!! I do NOT read scary stuff, but I was hooked on this book and couldn't put it down. It wasn't too terribly scary, although the peril did kick up several notches in the last hundred pages or so.

I'm on a roll with my Random Library Trolling. Check back soon for a review of The Shadow Society, another book I picked up knowing nothing about it beforehand and ended up liking quite a bit.




  1. I've heard a lot about this book and I STILL thought it was a gloomy book set in Victorian England! Thanks for clearing that one up :) I need to read this one, especially after what you've said about it.

    So, the shirt ... is it a reference to Harry's patronus (however you spell it)? Or someone's patronus? Or am I totally on the wrong track ('cause that's entirely possible!)?

    1. Susan!!! You're so close I'm giving you credit and you're totally my BBFF (blogging best friend forever...or BBBFF: book blogging best friend forever! LOL!)
      It's a doe, so it's Snape's patronus BECAUSE it was also Lilly's Patronus. And he still loves her, after all this time. Always. Gah...I still get emotional about that quote! (The geekdom, it is STRONG!) Harry and James both had a stag Patronus, I believe. Other HP fans, correct me if I'm wrong.
      Yes, The Name of the Star wasn't at all what I expected but in such a good way. And for some reason, I'm using a different browser and can reply to comments right now. Weird, but nice :)

  2. I LOVE that shirt!!! Seriously, I think that was my favorite part of the series. Gives me goosebumps! (Wasn't the "always" part in reference to loving Harry all along, too?)

    I've been SO curious about Name the Star, but it still sounds a bit too creepy for my comfort level. I'm a wimp! :)

    By the way, I finished Crossed the day after I got it, and now I can't wait to read Reached!! Thanks again for Crossed!

    1. Oh, I am SO with you on that! If I read the chapter about Snape and Lilly (The Prince's Tale) from Deathly Hallows, I will cry. Anytime. Anywhere. It's just that good.
      I am thrilled you liked Crossed!! I plan to re-read it before Reached comes out. :)

  3. I love Maureen Johnson so much. She is hilarious and I really need to read this book. I'm glad it's a lot lighter than the cover makes it look! Thanks for the review :)

  4. Ooh, like I said, I'm so jealous that you've read this book! It sounds so good, and I've liked other stuff that I've read by her. By the way, terrific new blog design! I like the swirly little bird, and it's totally gorgeous. (Psst. Rural town. Population 85. Over and out.)

    Does it make me weird that I have no clue what the shirt's about??

    Megan@The Book Babe

    1. Ha, no, it doesn't make you weird, but it tells me you're not a diehard HP fan! That's OK, we're still friends. ;) And you're the only person I've ever met from a town smaller than mine (pop. 280)

  5. I expected this book to be scarier, but I liked it. Rory was a great character indeed :) I thought she and Jerome were cute together!


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