Sunday, November 13, 2011

Not Your Parents' Ghost Stories: The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1) by Maureen Johnson
Putnam Juvenile, 2011

I'm not usually one for ghost stories. I don't like horror movies or being scared. I like the magical, but usually am quick to avoid dealing with the supernatural, vampires, or werewolves. (If I'm honest, it was Twilight that gave me a bad first-impression of this genre and I've been reluctant to give it another chance.)

And then I read The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.

It's modern day England and Rory, an American girl, is trying to acclimate to the many differences she's encountering at her very British boarding school in the east end of London, Wexford. Her focus is on trying to get used to all these changes, but the rest of the city is wrapped up in Ripper-mania - that's right, someone is recreating the infamous Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 starting the night before Rory's arrival to town.

Johnson does a brilliant job easing readers into the more supernatural aspects of this story. It starts out feeling like a contemporary story (which it is in many respects), but eventually secrets come out and all is not as it appears to be. We're trying to stomach it all and wrap our heads around it the same way Rory is, which I found refreshing unlike other novels where characters easily accept these "truths" with no questions asked. Primary and secondary characters are all colorful and complex, and they feel very real. And with an ending like this one, readers are clearly forewarned that Rory still has much more to learn in the second and third installments of this Shades of London trilogy.

I'm still not saying that I'm going to be diving head first into the world of supernatural literature any time soon. However, I am much more willing to give it a second chance than I was before. And I can tell you this - I can't wait for books two and three of this series in the coming years. Johnson has me hooked.

Comments welcome and happy reading!

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