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

Common Sense Media says

Macabre modern Ripper meets hip Brit boarding school.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

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

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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.

Language

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

Consumerism

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.

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.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Maureen Johnson
Genre:Mystery
Topics:High school, History, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:September 29, 2011
Number of pages:372
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle, Nook, Paperback

This review of The Name of the Star: Shades of London, Book 1 was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byVenezia April 12, 2013
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

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 about her past relationships and make out scenes. She also describes in depth a make out session with her BF and how she was on the floor. Another prob is violence because the prologue is a girl who is walking and texting then steps into a pool of blood with a body and describes the body. Spoiler: the body has no head and she notices when she feels for the neck to check a pulse but sees its not there. Despite the gory scenes and heavy sexual tension, the book is extremely enjoyable with a lot of plot twists. I recommend if u like mysteries!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Kid, 12 years old April 6, 2014
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

Great Read

I am 12 years old and I am not usually into ghosts and killer books. This book was an exception. It had well set-up mystery. There is also a lot of action, but my favorite part is when Rory is at her boarding school. There are great characters and the story seems like realistic fiction. But it is defiantly not. A great read for any mature reader!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great role models
Too much violence
Teen, 14 years old Written bymargaret99 March 19, 2014
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

Great Book

This is one of my most favorite books ever. I will read it over and over again. It has a lot of action and supernatural aspects to it that I love. This is a great book for teen looking for a good book.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great role models

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Essential Apps Guide