By Maureen Johnson
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Two Things I Liked About The Name of the Star:
1. Everything was anglophilia and nothing hurt.
2. Boarding school (…in London).
The one problem with restarting this blog in the summertime is that it is really hard to keep up with my own pace. I blow through books faster than I can blog about them. As of this post, I am fully four books behind schedule. Whoops. Part of that is laziness about sitting down to put my reactions into words (it takes less effort and is more enjoyable just to move onto the next book!), and part of it is that I’ve been reading at a rate of about 1.5 books every 2 days. So here goes my attempt to catch up. Up first: Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star.
Louisiana transplant Rory Deveaux moves to England when her professor parents take a year-long sabbatical, enrolling at a London boarding school while her parents settle in Bristol. The very day she arrives, a body is found resembling the crime scene of Jack the Ripper’s first victim. Pretty soon, the city is in uproar as the police are baffled by the lack of any evidence leading to the copycat killer, despite the fact that the murders were committed within full view of one of London’s many infamous CCTV cameras. After witnessing a man’s presence at the second murder site – a presence her roommate is unable to corroborate – Rory realizes a newfound ability may have caused her to inadvertently stumble onto the case’s biggest lead. Too bad she can’t tell anyone.
I’ve been curious about this book ever since its release a few months ago, but until now haven’t taken the time and effort to actually procure and read it. I was drawn to the book for several reasons: a) London boarding school. I mean, seriously; b) I’m morbidly fascinated by serial killing, and became somewhat familiar with Jack the Ripper lore during my time in London this past January; and c) I think Maureen Johnson is one of the most genuinely and unpretentiously amusing people I’m aware of existing in this world. Her Twitter feed is always witty and entertaining. But for some reason, I never end up liking her books as much as I want to like them. And I want to like them a lot, because I like her a lot. But they always seem to be disappointing. Perfectly adequate reads, but nothing particularly special. The Name of the Star followed this trend. Sure I enjoyed it well enough, but overall it fell kind of flat. As a heroine, Rory wasn’t particularly interesting, nor were any of the supporting characters (and their relationships with the heroine) particularly well rounded or fleshed out. I wasn’t invested in the outcome of their conflicts. And the plot itself was pretty thin. Johnson was asking the reader to suspend a certain amount of incredulity in order for us to buy into her supernatural premise, but it just wasn’t convincing enough for me to accept. And for a story promising suspense and intrigue, I just…never felt very suspended or intrigued. If I had to sum up my sentiments throughout reading The Name of the Star in one word it would be: indifferent**.
One thing this book did succeed in is making me incredibly nostalgic for London, with the setting and the constant drinking of tea… In fact, after finishing it, I brewed my own cup of tea and scrounged for something that could pass for a biscuit, then wallowed in memories and anticipation for next spring (when I’ll be studying abroad in London).
**I feel irrationally guilty for saying this, as if I'm slandering a personal acquaintance or something. I think it's because I do like her so well as a person and because - due to her Twitter and blog and so on - I feel like, to some extent, I do actually know her as a person.
Books Read This Year: 47
Top 100 Progress: 48/100