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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Name of the Star

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 events of more than a century ago.
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 believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking 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.

So, this is my first Maureen Johnson book. I've been meaning to read the Little Blue Envelopes books for a while, but haven't been able to get my hands on them.  I saw the premise for this and I knew I had to get it. Ghosts? Jack the Ripper? London? How much more awesome could you get?
I was right to expect awesome from this. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty damn good.

Writing
It's funny. I've seen several people mention in their reviews that they thought the writing dragged this down, but personally, I don't see where that's coming from at all.  I actually thought the writing in this was great, fairly simple, very good at describing the setting and getting the feel of the scene across.  Is it the sort of writing you spend paragraphs gushing about? No.  But it was good, and it worked for this story. The focus of this book was the plot, not the writing.
My only real problem with the writing was that there were a couple times where people launched into these  little narratives, and I just couldn't see that happening in real life.  Especially with narratives of that length and with so few "ums" and "uhs."
However, the writing in this is very good, and perfect for the story.

Characters
I really, really liked Maureen's characters.  The MC, Rory, was fantastic.  Why can I say this? Because she barely annoyed me once throughout the entire book. That is an extremely rare occurrence nowadays.  Rory wasn't an idiot like most YA girls, but she wasn't some genius, she had a good sense of humor and some snark along with it, but not to the point of bitchiness, and she reacted to things like an average girl would react.  I was able to relate to her and feel for her and really slip into the story through her perspective.
I was a big fan of almost all the other characters.  Jazza, Stephen, Callum, Boo, Claudia, Jo, etc.  They were funny and sweet and sarcastic and just plain interesting, and I liked that.  The villain also worked for me, though I did have a big qualm with him, which I shall mention later.
However, there were two characters I was not a big fan of: Jerome and Chelsea.
Jerome was our love interest. The thing is, the romance is a very small part of the story, so this didn't bother me all that much.  But the fact is I didn't ever connect him. I didn't especially dislike him, I just never felt anything for him or cared about his relationship with Rory. Honestly, I'd rather see her with Stephen.
And then Chelsea. I disliked Chelsea not because of what we did, but because she was very clearly set up to be "the mean girl" of the story, yet . . . she never really did anything. Bad, I mean.  She never really did anything bad to warrant the scorn or hate. I mean, I realize Jazza had her problems with the girl, but honestly, all Chelsea wants is to go to Cambridge. How does that make her mean?
Despite the two characters I had nitpicks with, overall, I loved Maureen's characters.  They made for a very interesting, colorful cast that I enjoyed reading about.

Plot
I really, really loved this plot.
Like I said: Jack the Ripper. Ghosts and ghost police. London.  How could that not equal awesome?
The answer to the above is, the author could execute it terribly.  But that was not the case.  Maureen executed this wonderfully.
There's only so much I can say without giving away major spoilers, but her whole take on ghosts and the murders and this whole thing in general was so original and awesome that I couldn't help but love it. I'm a sucker for original plots, and there aren't nearly enough mysteries/thrillers in YA today.  I really enjoyed the twists and turns that kept popping up, and I adored those few chapters in third person that let us experience an important event that Rory was not present at.  Aside from the somewhat slow beginning, the pacing was spot on, and it kept me in suspense. Don't be fooled by how long it took me to read this, that's just because I've been really busy.
But, I did have one big qualm. The motivation.
When we found out why the villain had done what he'd done at the end, I found myself feeling very disappointed. Because it just didn't make sense to me, why he would concoct something so elaborate to get such a simple result that wasn't even necessary to his well-being.  I just felt like it wasn't strong enough reasoning for why he'd do the things he's done. Yes, he is somewhat mentally unhinged, but it just seemed like the reasoning was a bit weak.
That was my big issue.  But that aside, this was a really awesome plot.  If nothing else, you should read this book for the amazingly creeptastic and original plot.

Overall
I like romances and paranormals and fantasies and all that, I really do.  But this book was like a breath of fresh air, the paranormal combined with the mystery and thriller aspects.  It was funny, scary, creepy, and stunningly original.  I will definitely be awaiting the next book in the Shades of London series.
Four stars.

2 comments:

Michelle

YOU SHIPPED STEPHEN/RORY, TOO? YES!
They were all partnered up and facing bad people together and I was like omg, just randomly make-out like you did with Jerome. BUT ALAS. :( I DEMAND FURTHER DEVELOPMENT WITH STEPHEN/RORY.

Lexie

INDEED I DID!
He was better developed and, in my opinion, easier to connect to than Jerome, and Rory probably knows more about him than she does about Jerome, because there's no secrets between them.
IT WILL HAPPEN. IT MUST. Or, I really hope so.

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