The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
The Name of the Star is a fascinating new novel set in present day London, revolving around a teenager named Aurora Deveaux. Aurora (please call me Rory) has recently left her home in Benouville, Louisiana to attend Wexford, a boarding school in London. Her arrival at the school just happens to coincide with a horrible murder believed to be committed by a copycat of Jack the Ripper. As the story unfolds, Rory finds herself deeply involved in solving the mystery of the murders.
I truly appreciated the way this story was set up. Some may say the storyline builds too slowly; however I think the beginning of the story sets up the atmosphere for what is coming. The first portion of the book introduces us to Rory and shows us what its like for someone from the Deep South to leave everything behind and move to a different country. We get to see life in an English boarding school, everything from the food, exams, and uniforms to the different social structures.
How Rory adapts to the differences really allows us to get a full look at her, and we learn she is a great female protagonist. She’s funny and smart, loves all food, and she’s chatty. She’s also very friendly, but quick to show she can stand up for herself when the need arises. She loves and misses her family, every last crazy, kooky member, but also realizes she needs to be independent from them. She begins to make a few friends including Jazza, her roommate, and Jerome, a possible love interest.
The plotline involving the murders takes second place during the beginning of the story which fits perfectly. That is outside of the school, not part of the school life. The kids talk about it but it doesn’t affect them. That is until Rory accidentally sees the killer, and he decides to bring the murders to the school. In fact, she’s the only one who saw him. See, something is special about Rory, something special that few others have. Rory can see ghosts.
This is where the action in the story begins to build and it soon becomes a fast-paced thriller. The murders become part of the forefront of the story and Rory is right in the middle of it all. She begins to meet a few others who are like her, a group that are part of a secret police unit that only deal with ghosts. Because of the secrecy of this group and what they do, as Rory becomes closer to them, she ends up being distanced from her friends at school. She can’t tell them what is happening, so even though they still care about her those relationships become strained. The change in the dynamics of Rory’s friendships epitomizes how different her life is going to be from now on.
I believe this is the beginning of a potentially great series. All the characters are well developed and they all have stories I wanted to hear more about. I am looking forward to learning more about this secret police unit and what they do. I want to know if Rory remains friends with the kids from school. The ending leaves me wanting more and makes me anxious for the next book. That’s a great sign for future installments in the series!