The Name of the Star: Shades of London, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Name of the Star: Shades of London, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Macabre modern Ripper meets hip Brit boarding school.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Provides lots of detail about the original Jack the Ripper murders in 1888 -- not just the grisly details but the history of how the press and the police handled the case. Also includes details about modern London: its extensive camera surveillance system, the Underground, and the British Museum. English boarding school life (minus Harry Potter magic) is also well described.

Positive Messages

Great talking points abound about how the press and the public handle this modern-day Ripper story. The sensationalism may not even seem extreme to kids raised around media today. It's only surprising that the press in 1888 also had a field day sensationalizing the story. Also: Rory is given some advice that helps her. A character tells her, "Fear can't hurt you. ... When it washes over you, give it no power."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rory's No. 1 asset is bravery. She's also a devoted friend and one excited about learning about a new culture and sharing her culture with others.


Descriptions of both historical and modern Ripper murders are gory: Organs carefully removed and placed around bodies. But only once is there a near replay of the actual crime taking place. Rory, the main character, nearly chokes to death at dinner and is in danger from the Ripper and cut. Those protecting her are poisoned to near death and suffer broken bones. Events described in the recent past include a near suicide by hanging, an electrocution, a motorcycle accident, and a drunken car wreck. There's also talk of experimenting on live humans, what life and death was like in air raid shelters during WWII, and police officers dying in a raid.


Some kissing in libraries and on school benches. Some nonsexual undressing, and bare butts are compared in pieces of art at the British Museum in a pretty funny scene.


Pretty light: "Hell," "jackass," "s--te" with the British "e."


Cheez Whiz is shipped from the U.S. and consumed in mass quantities. Plus mentions of iPod, Walkman, and the Spice Girls.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

British students drink (legally) at a party and stash booze (kind of illegally unless they're 18) in their rooms. In the girls' dorm, girls often drink. One character reveals that she almost died in a drunk driving accident and lost her friend, the driver. An adult drinks whiskey in excess and vomits. Students go to nearby pubs to drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Name of the Star is the first book in the Shades of London series and talks extensively of the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 as they are recreated in modern London. Details of crime scenes are given -- and they're gory with organs rearranged -- but only once is the crime somewhat replayed. Rory, the main character, has seen the modern-day murderer and is in constant danger. She's cut and those protecting her are injured seriously as well. There's lots of talk of near-death experiences, including a drunk driving accident. Language is light and so is the sexual content (just lots of kissing), while drinking is a bit heavier; it's legal in England at 18 and most students are 17 and 18, but they stockpile booze in their rooms and drink to excess. Readers will learn a lot about English history and boarding school life.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byVenezia April 12, 2013

great book but suggestive material and gory scenes

First of all this an AMAZING book. I have definetely read it more than once and still oving it. The CSM summary doesn't state everything. Rory DOES talk... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bySofabanana May 28, 2020

Can't wait to read the sequel

This book is really good. I love the characters, and the story. I personally don't like sci-fi/fantasy elements all that much, but this time I think it was... Continue reading

What's the story?

Louisiana native Rory Deveaux is thrilled her parents are taking a sabbatical in Bristol, England. She enrolls in a London boarding school for her senior year and arrives ready for a true cultural exchange. She's brought her quirky hometown stories and her Cheez Whiz. Unfortunately, London has a new Jack the Ripper murderer to greet her. Someone's mimicking the notorious 1888 murders, and her fabulous new school is right in the middle of the action. In fact, the night of one murder, she's the only one who sees someone creepy and suspicious. With one Ripper-style murder to go, it doesn't take long for the police to realize Rory's in real danger.

Is it any good?

Here's a page-turner ideal for fans of Cassandra Clare (good call quoting her praise on the paperback's cover) and her witty and bloody Mortal Instruments series. This modern-day Ripper story has plenty of mystery, suspense, gory details, and a good dose of historical perspective. Unexpected is the boarding school setting, the hip and funny teen characters, and the strong paranormal vibe. All squeezed together, THE NAME OF THE STAR is creepy, exciting fun.    

Missing is a bit more depth to the paranormal angle -- those secret police devices could use some work. It's the only weak spot in an otherwise fantastic genre mashup.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Jack the Ripper, historical and modern. Would you follow the sensationalism on the news? Be repulsed by it? Or be repulsed by it and follow it anyway? Or ... run off to London to buy a souvenir T-shirt?

  • Think about how this book and Jack the Ripper got their names. Are you surprised by how the press handled the Ripper case in 1888?

  • The author mixes lighter moments and humor with the horror in this story. Which do you prefer? Do you think it's a good balance?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and supsense

Themes & Topics

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