The Name of the Star [Shades of London, Book One] by Maureen Johnson – 3.75/5 (Yeah, you read that right: 3.75)
Perhaps the best way to enter the literary worlds of Maureen Johnson is through her Twitter account; @maureenjohnson shows you the crazy. Glimpse a mind that puts her followers in jars, renames her friends and associates with pseudonyms like Felicity Disco and Daphne Unfeasible, and has an extraordinary liking for watermelon and hamsters. I kid you not; this woman writes books.
So now that you’ve got a vague idea of the author, jump into her fiction; it’s a ride you’ll enjoy! I bought The Name of the Star from Waterstones while it was on a World Book Day promotion (£1, bargain!). Despite my love for the author and all her weirdness (especially her weirdness), I’d only previously read one of her books (13 Little Blue Envelopes). NotS was my second venture into Johnson’s work, and I picked a goodie. NotS begins with Rory, an American teenager, relocating to Britain because her parents get jobs at a university here. To continue her education, Rory enrols at a boarding school in London. Turns out, this was BAD TIMING, because a Jack the Ripper copycat is prowling the streets. Oh, who’s that behind you, Rory? Yep, it’s JACK THE FREAKING RIPPER! (Ghost, of course). But things are not so simple (as if being stalked by a murdering ghost is ever simple). Enter a team of ghost-detecting police (think: Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London) and Rory’s ability to converse with the dead. There’s much detecting, much hanging out with ghosts who are so much cooler than I’ll ever be, lashings of Rippermania, and some dramatic (and gruesome) murrrderrrrr.
Johnson’s writing is witty, funny, and glides along delightfully, taking you from teenage romance to ghost killings so seamlessly, you’ll wonder you’re not in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Johnson is an American writer, but spends a considerable amount of time in Britain (she is even our Queen of Teen UK! *curtsies*), and it shows; Johnson’s grasp of British culture is strong, and I actually really enjoyed seeing my own culture interpreted and communicated back to me by a foreigner. Showing how the morbid effect the murders have on media coverage and the public psyche illustrates Johhnson’s grasp of popular culture, and resonates in this mid-Leveson Inquiry era. You can easily imagine Rippermania being fuelled by the News of the World or the Daily Fail.
I enjoyed the experience of reading this book, and I’d continue with the series (though I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’d camp out on a haunted London street to await a midnight release). NotS is not a book I’d usually pick up, but I’m glad that I did.
Oh, and follow @maureenjohnson; she’s hilar!
Bekah (@RebekahBooks on Twitter!)
Let us know what you thought by way of a comment below, go on! I dare you ; )