The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson (9/2011)
Scenario: Aurora, called Rory, sets out for a senior year spent at Wexford, a prestigious East London boarding school. Adjusting to British culture after a lifetime in small-town Louisiana is tough, but Rory’s making inroads until Jack the Ripper copycat murders loom large around the city and the school is cast into tumult. Suddenly, Rory finds herself an outsider once more, but this time, it’s not because she’s American; she can see people her classmates can’t.
- First, an embarrassing confession: I like the American cover (pictured, left). It’s apparently a controversial choice, and the cover’s getting a lot of hate in the blogosphere. The consensus is that the British cover is more representative, but I find it too The Mortal Instruments-y. My only beef with the American cover is that it features one of the murder victims, not Rory. What do you think?
- Rory. Her excellent sense of humor. That her voice is Southern but not cloying. Her instant friendship with Jazza, and slow-to-build respect for Boo.
- Boarding school stories! I was excited to go back to that setting after Anna and the French Kiss, and there are a lot of similarities between the two schools.
- As with Delirium, I didn’t realize this was the set-up for a series (my cover didn’t note it). I came to the book with different expectations, and felt less manipulated by threads like Rory’s relationship with Jerome. Now that I know that Rory’s story continues, I have certain suspicions about an impending love triangle, but I could be wrong.
- Jerome is a flimsy character, especially compared to Jazza and Boo. Now that I know Johnson will have other books to flesh him out, I’m less concerned.
- The absence of parents felt a little more artificial here than in Anna. Once disaster breaks out, I have trouble seeing kids being allowed to stay at their beleaguered school, but I guess if I bought it with Hogwarts, I should be willing to accept in with Hogwarts.
Bottom Line: Not unlike the Harry Potter series, this one packs in a lot of popular elements not usually combined: boarding schools, murder mystery, the paranormal, and a fair punch of humor. Give it a try; personally, I’m eager to see where the story goes in the next one.