Today marks the release of Maureen Johnson’s delicious new Jack the Ripper novel, The Name of the Star. It’s the first book in Johnson’s new Shades of London series, and it is an absolutely perfect October read.
Rory Deveaux is a Louisiana teenager from an eccentric Southern family. When her parents decide to move to Bristol, England at the start of her senior year, Rory enrolls at a London boarding school named Wexford. The academics are intense, learning to maneuver a big city in a foreign country is intense, and things get really weird for Rory after a near-death experience in the school cafeteria. She begins to see things her friends don’t.
To make things even crazier, the day Rory arrives in London is the anniversary of the first Jack the Ripper murder. And a new series of Ripper-style murders breaks out near Rory’s school, which just so happens to be smack in the middle of Ripper territory. As Rory makes new friends and snogs her face off with campus cutie Jerome, she could also be in very serious danger.
Like I said…perfect October read. It’s such a departure from Johnson’s previous books, but her signature humor is all over it. This book is just creepy and scary enough to keep you up at night, but the typical teenage experiences of school and boys keep it charming and completely lovable. Rory is the perfect heroine, only slightly fazed by the supernatural busting out around her after a lifetime spent with the likes of Cousin Diane and her Healing Angel Ministry. She’s obviously fascinating to her British classmates, and she is the perfect fish out of water in England. London itself is a drizzly, atmospheric counterpoint to her.
This is what great YA lit is made of: an extremely clever, literate novel with huge popcorn appeal. Love it, can’t wait for the next in the series.