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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 26 July 2014
My absolute favourite book, I've read this so many times I can quote it on cue!
The story mixes murder, action and a supernatural element with daily school life, the current style of pretty much all young adult novels since twilight (groan), but I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of romance and lines about 'how blue his eyes are' or 'the way he smiled', though there is a romantic interest he's not some mysterious new stranger or even that important to the overall storyline, he is more of a side note which means that instead of pages and pages of sappy thoughts about him the protagonist focuses on the serial killer at large and her ability to see ghosts which you'd think is an obvious thing to dwell on but many YA authors don't seem to agree.
I also like the name of the protagonist 'Rory' short for 'Aurora' again fitting with the pretentious YA female character names (including my personal favourites, Mirabelle, Annaliese-Rose, Caramel) but the shortened version makes her sound less delicate and more like a real person. Johnson adds funny anecdotes to each chapter and the character she has created has a varied personality she can be very funny or serious with lines that make you think. I would definitely recommend (and already have) this book.

Each character has their own thoughts and feeling which contribute to their own personalities and Johnstone spends enough time on each one to give them a 3D personality to help the reader to see the different sides to each character instead of just giving them a one track mind and not bothering to make them realistic.
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on 21 June 2013
See my review of this book, and many more, at

The mystery of Jack the Ripper is one that has fascinated the world since the anonymous murders occurred in 1888. Who was this serial killer? How did he evade capture? And what drove him to such brutal actions in the first place? Part of the terror (or some might say allure) comes from this lack of knowledge, which has stood the test of time among scholars and creatives alike. This is why when teenager Rory moves from Louisiana to Wexford, a London boarding school, only to find the work of a copycat killing has happened right on her new doorstep, she is in far more danger that she could realise. Especially since she's the only one to see the suspect - but that's not all she can see - after nearly choking to death Rory can see ghosts. Now a secret organisation of ghost hunters known as The Shades need her help to stop the killings, as the new Ripper may be more that he appears.

Ultimately, The Name of the Star is an enjoyable book. Rory is an interesting and funny character, whose inner musings, (--), as she compares and copes with life between America and England make her not only likeable, but relatable. As a British person living in London, reading Rory's thoughts were quite amusing and just show that what one person considers normal can be new and strange for another. I was also grateful that neither nationality was stereotyped or overly mocked - whilst there was a gentle poking at both English and American culture, it all seemed in good nature.

As for the plot, the idea of ghost-busting police is engaging and original, not to mention fun (they are sometimes known as "Scotland Graveyard"). The reveal of Rory's new ability marks a distinct change in the tone of the book, from contemporary to paranormal. Seeing ghosts changes her life quite dramatically, which is reflected in the narrative, bring the Ripper into the spotlight. As for the Ripper himself, he is convincingly creepy and dangerous, which builds up tension between the murder dates and increases the pressure on the Shades to stop him.

For a book about ghosts, I would have liked to have seen a few more. I was also intrigued by the use of an abandoned Underground station, which was a clever metaphor for the ghosts themselves - hidden in plain sight, known only by those who know where to look - but again, I wish there had been more development around this topic. I was also slightly annoyed about the almost cliffhanger ending; it was abrupt and jarred with the narrative pace of the rest of the novel.

Luckily, the next volume was available to me as soon as I finished, so I just set this one down and moved on to the next one.

4 stars
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on 25 April 2013
(Source: Purchased used from
17-year-old Rory (Aurora), is heading from New Orleans to London for her final year at school, after her parents took teaching placements at Bristol university in the UK.
Starting at her new school `Wexford', Rory encounters the usual problems of fitting in in a new school/new country, but what she doesn't expect is the sudden appearance of a serial killer in London, whose murders seem to mimic those of Jack the Ripper.
With the murders seemingly unsolvable, and getting closer and closer to Wexford where Rory is studying, she's caught up in the mess when she becomes a witness, and possibly the only person to have seen the man they think is the copycat.
Why are the police so baffled though? Why is Rory the only one to have seen the killer? And what does the name of the star have to do with it?

This book was a mixture of murder mystery, and paranormal teen fiction, and it was fun trying to guess what would happen next!

Rory was a great main character, and I loved her spunk. I loved how she brought her southern charm to England, and I loved how she wasn't afraid to have sausages and doughnuts for breakfast!
I loved that the little paranormal quirk that she picked up happened whilst she was in London, and wasn't something that she had always had, and I loved how strange everything was! I totally got her shock when she discovered what had happened to her and what she could now do!

I liked the other characters in this book, especially the ones who turned out not to be exactly who Rory thought they were! Boo was a bit of a strange character, and she certainly kept me guessing, and Alistair turned out to be quite special too!

I liked the storyline in this book, and I liked how it blended several different genres - contemporary, paranormal, and ghost story. I thought the three were blended together pretty well, and I was certainly kept guessing as to who was who and what the hell was going on! I also liked the little surprise at the end, which I'm guessing will lead into book 2.
I also thought the author did a good job of making the setting feel English, which I gather was in part due to her spending some time over here!

Overall; an interesting mix of paranormal and murder mystery.
7 out of 10.
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on 23 March 2012
Rory's parents have a gap year from teaching, so they decide to move over to Bristol. Rory chooses to go her own way and goes to a London boarding school. Once there, she makes friends, chokes on her dinner and discovers some new abilities. Oh yeah, and there's a Jack the Ripper copycat in town.

Of all the colourful characters, Alistair was easily my favourite. Although he didn't appear often, his dry humour had me in fits of giggles. The main character, Rory, is okay and she does have her awesome moments but mostly is your typical YA heroine. When Rory first moves into Wexford, the boarding school, she's warmly greeted by Jazza, and they become firm friends. erome joins the gang around the same time too, he's obsessed with the Ripper murders. That's all I remrmber. Unfortunately, after Boo joins them, Rory drifts away from Jazza and we barely see at all throughout the rest of the book. Jerome turns up a little more regularly than Jazza but also frifts away. Later on, Callum and Stephen join in and I have difficulty working out who's who because they are so similar.

''I looked at the stained glass image of the lamb in the window above me, but that only reminded me that lambs are famous for being led into slaughter, or sometimes hanging around with lions in ill-advised relationships.'' - Rory

I was hoping for a bit more from this. It really seemed to be working towards something truly special, but half way through the plot changes slightly, new characters arrive and it becomes your typical YA paranormal book. Only with a little Life On Mars spice added.
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on 3 October 2011
I bought this book intrigued by the book description. Several chapters in, all I had read was a questionable description of life at a UK boarding school- albeit one with the laxest rules on underage drinking in the UK. Much of the details didn't ring true, and this was made worse by the absence of anything paranormal. Once this got going, the plot and my interest levels rose markedly, allowing me to overlook the glaring lack of research Into UK schools.

The rest of the book concerns the heroine, Rory, and her involvement in a copycat murderer, basing himself on Jack The Ripper. The twist is that ghosts and ghost hunting is involved. These areas were well written and entertaining, and left me wanting to read the next in what appears to be a planned series. However, whilst I think Maureen Johnson should do more research, what I would prefer is an editor to cull some of the boarding school padding which had little relevance to the plot.
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on 15 April 2012
I enjoyed this book at the beginning. It was very well written and quite amusing. I agree with another reviewer who said that more research on the author's part was needed as there were a few things that were questionable, the rules on drinking for example. As a boarding school where parent's are paying to send their children, I doubt that the Head Teacher would think it a good idea to serve alcohol at a school function if the majority of students are under-age.
While some people have said it was a little uninteresting at the start, I found it lost its way for me when the big supernatural stuff started happening. I loved the idea that Jack the Ripper had returned, it was the reason I bought the book in the first place. But, and this will sound really stupid seeing as it's a fictional work, I found it to be unbelievable and a little predictable.
It was a shame, because I did start to lose interest in the book whereas I couldn't put it down before. I did finish it and although the ending pointed quite clearly at a sequel, I doubt I'll be buying it. People will undoubtedly disagree with me, and while I can understand the appeal it will have for other people it doesn't hold any for me.
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I have to say I love the premise of this book, probably the worlds most famous British serial killer as the basis for the story. The Jack the Ripper aspect was very well researched and this reflected in the plot, unfortunately I didn't particularly engage with the way the plot came to fruition in this aspect.

The book is beautifully visual with elaborate scroll work on the first page of the new chapters, a visual representation of the different aspects of the plot.

Told in first person narrative from Rory's point of view. Moving from the US to the UK and attending boarding school for the first time while her parents use their sabbatical to teach American Law at Bristol University. The background information to Rory's life in Louisiana is concise but surprisingly in depth building the picture of Rory's character and family dynamic very well. The world building is excellent thanks to the depth of the descriptive writing without it turning into purple prose

All of the characters were fascinating, although I have to say that I didn't form a strong connection to any of them. The mix of school cliques, developing friendships/romance and the divides in social status reflecting economic status all added to the story and character development.

I did feel as if the story started out in one direction and then veered off that path in order to end up somewhere completely different, while the story was compelling in itself I felt the flow was a little disjointed.

The use of third person narrative within the story differentiated the `Ripper' attacks as well as adding impact to the imagery and therefore the story as a whole. Quotes divide sections of the book and for me signaled a change in direction/progression of the plot.

The portrayal of the media circus that follows a high profile police case added realism while the history of the treatment of mental illness gave a fascinating insight into some of the action. The tension builds alongside the action and revelations rather than easing it towards the end of the book.

The cliffhanger style ending paves the way for the second book dealing with the Shades. An intriguing mix of conspiracy theories, secret government departments, friendship, romance and ghosts
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Rory Deveaux's spent her whole life in small town Louisiana but when her law professor parents get a chance to teach at Bristol University, she decides to study at Wexford, a sixth form boarding college in Whitechapel, London. While Rory gets to grips with the English education system, the horror of hockey and almost choking to death on school dinners, she also becomes friends with roommate Jazza, 80s nostalgia fiend Alistair and something more with cute prefect Jerome.

But Rory's arrival coincides with a murder spree by a madman recreating the murders of Jack the Ripper. The police are baffled - there are no witnesses and the CCTV of the crimes has been manipulated to remove all trace of the killer. When the killer dumps one of his victims at Wexford, Rory's sure that she's seen him but Jazza was with her at the time and claims not to have seen anyone.

Rory discovers that her near-death experience has left her with an extraordinary gift - one that brings her to the attention of a secret police unit and the killer himself ...

Maureen Johnson's YA paranormal thriller, the first in a trilogy is an entertaining read with some great one-liners, a great first person voice and a believable reaction to the revelation of paranormal activity. However, it's written very much for an American audience so Brits may get annoyed at the stream of explanations and some Brit facts are wrong (which a simple Google search could have resolved). Also, the uneven pacing means that it doesn't work as a thriller and there are things in the story that just don't make sense (e.g. why Rory chose to study at a British school rather than a US school in London, why she chose to study in London rather than a school closer to Bristol). Ultimately, it's fun enough to keep turning the pages and notwithstanding my frustrations I'll read the sequel.

Rory's the main reason to read this. She's a lot of fun and I loved her way of looking at things and her family stories. I believed in her reaction to the discovery that she can see ghosts but I didn't see the point of her relationship with Jerome and the Shade squad is underdeveloped, relying on an information dump in the final third. Ultimately, it's fun enough to keep turning the pages though and I'll read the sequel.
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on 14 April 2015
In my opinion The Name of The Star, (The Shades of London #), really captures the reader’s imagination about half way through the story. Up until the half way mark it’s a little slow, bogged down by the detail of introducing the setting and the characters. But, on the whole it is quite an engaging story, and Maureen does a great job keeping us entertained with her little witticisms. Luckily the pace livens up in the second half of the novel, and elements of the story are revealed that make it a much more exciting tale, so watch out for that! I would say the writing style is not complex, it is more middle grade, yet the topic is YA, which makes it an easy, fast read.

Rory is from Louisiana but has been sent to Wexford Academy, a boarding school in London. Despite the culture shock, Rory settles into Wexford without too much difficulty. Although she does feel somewhat challenged by the emphasis on sport, particularly hockey. Still, everything else seems to be going well, and she likes her new roommate Jazza. Her boarding school happens to be in the same area that was terrorized by Jack the Ripper in 1888. Weirdly it seems as if Jack is back in town, and wants to greet Rory. “It was as if the news itself wanted to reassure me. Even Jack the Ripper himself had reappeared as part of the greeting committee.” There are CCTV cameras all over London, yet this isn’t deterring someone from carrying out copy cat Jack The Ripper murders. With the murders comes a new flat mate, Boo, who seems very different from Rory’s flatmate Jazza, and everything begins to change. I liked Maureen’s choice of name, Boo, for Rory’s new flat mate, very witty!

It’s a new twist on the Jack The Ripper story and on the whole it works well. The characters are well crafted, particularly Rory, the main female character, and for the most part the story line is believable, (bearing in mind that this is about ghosts!) Though, I did wonder a bit about the method used to zap the ghosts into oblivion possibly this stretched the powers of believability a bit. Though, Maureen Johnson likes to be humorous so maybe she was thinking of changing channels on her TV when she came up with the idea! No, more about that, I don’t want to spoil it for you. The book appears to be well researched, you get the sense that Maureen Johnson tiptoed around London snooping around to find out all she could about the various parts of London where Jack the Ripper struck.

There is a touch of romance in the story, Jerome the love interest, seems to be obsessed with Jack the Ripper, in fact he encourages Rory to sneak out of Wexford through a broken window, to a roof top vantage point at Aldshot, hoping to see something. Jerome sounds a bit daft, and fool-hardy, typical teenage boy material. Later on the way back Rory does indeed see something, or possibly someone, but her flat mate does not, adding to the mystery. I had the sense that Maureen Johnson didn’t intend that this romance was to play a big part in the novel, in a way it seemed to be a bit of light-hearted relief for Rory, a snog with obsessive Jerome, seemed to take her mind of the Ripper’s devilish plans. You can’t blame the poor girl. If you are looking for a well developed romance this isn’t it, this feels more like a bit of a light-hearted temporary diversion, with a very satisfactory snog as a compensation.“Kissing is something that makes up for a lot of other crap you have to put up with…It can be confusing and weird and awkward, but sometimes it just makes you melt and forget everything that is going on.”

Full review at
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on 24 January 2013
The characters are interesting and fully fleshed out, and speak in Maureen Johnson's signature believable, natural dialogue. The supernatural elements were treated cleverly, the villain was chilling, the action was quick, the title was a hint all along, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
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