The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.
Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police now believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities. (Barnes and Noble)
Rory moves from Louisiana to London in the midst of some crazy business. As she hopes to start her new life at Wexford Academy, a boarding school, everyone is in hysteria over a murder that appears to be a copycat of the first 1888 Jack the Ripper crime.
One by one, more murders occur with details alarmingly close to the originals. After being dragged to a crime scene by her recent snogging partner, Jerome (um, yeah. You might want to rethink that one, Rory. Just sayin), Rory gets noticed by a strange man. And when she runs into him later on campus, things get a little creepy. With the whole school going Spazz City over the recent murders (and those to come. Boooohaaaaaaaa), it appears that Rory is about to get more involved than she’d like. She finds that she has a strange ability that interests London’s special Undercover Ghost Police (not really their name, I swear) and they want to use her to lure the killer out.
This was completely different from any of Maureen Johnson’s other books. There was still an underlying sense of humor in the main character, which I appreciate because I think Johnson does that well, but there was a great creepy vibe that hearkened back to old school horror films— the old black and whites that let the horror happen in the set up and in the anticipation. Of course, anything dealing with Jack the Ripper is equal parts intriguing and disturbing (I’m sorry Johnny Depp, but even you can’t make me watch From Hell again because watching the Ripper crimes scenes recreated was that scary).
At the same time, the details given by Johnson made me want to look up more facts about the infamous murders and the theories behind who the killer may have actually been.
Along with the gruesome bits of history is a storyline about ghosts. I won’t delve into too much detail here because it could potentially be quite spoilery, but I thought it was a fun, creative twist in the overall plot. Also, Rory is still a just a teenage girl trying to adjust to life in a new school, faced with the typical are-we-boyfriend-and-girlfriend-or-do-we-just-makeout-alot dilemmas, in addition to wondering when and if this murderer will strike again.
Crush Intensity: 3.75/5 I liked it. It was a solid read.
Soundtrack: I’m showing my age here, but whatevs. This song, Like a Stone by Audioslave, has always creeped me out because of its stalkerish nature.