A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
- Author: Maureen Johnson
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: High School, History, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Penguin Group
- Publication date: September 29, 2011
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 372
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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