Tuesday, July 5, 2011

REVIEW: The Name Of The Star

Written by Maureen Johnson

Published by 
G.P. Putnam's Sons
An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Release Date September 2011

*As always I'll start by saying my reviews are more book discussions than the reviews most people write. I talk about feelings before, during, and after reading a book.

I was able to get a signed ARC of this book while attending ALA11 in New Orleans with Mar and I want to start by saying this. The Penguin staff were one of the better groups at organizing, informing, and moving a signing. I just wanted to say that because there were a couple of publishers, big publishers, who acted like this was there first time at the dance so to speak.

The whole ALA11 experience was hugely positive but because of a couple unprofessional things in terms of stupidity I wanted to get that out of the way to showcase a positive when it came to professionalism.

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to ALA11 was to get to meet Maureen Johnson. I've become a big fan of  her writing but in a some what different way than how most readers find a writer. Let me explain, I'll try to keep it short, and then get on with my review of The Name Of The Star.

I had heard the name Maureen Johnson a lot. That sort of thing happens when you live with a YA Librarian(Mar) who reads tons, you end of at least knowing the names and books that are making impacts, but I didn't have any sort of introduction to her writing until I added her on Twitter. Mar at the time wasn't on Twitter so I added a bunch of writers, people, and things she was interested in so I could let her know about things. But of all of those adds Maureen Johnson's Twitter feed stood out. She was smart, funny, entertaining, and her Twitter actually had better writing than a number of books I was reading at the time. So once we planned to go to ALA11, and unlike Chicago last year, this time I wanted to attend the floor show so to speak, I decided I wanted to get something signed by her. 

Going into ALA11 the only thing I had read of her's besides her Twitter feed was her short story in Zombies Vs. Unicorns, which I liked a lot. My plan was to print out a page from her Twitter feed and have her sign that and I would turn that into a bookmark; which I ended up doing. I was in line to get an ARC of her new book when I learned the book had a Jack The Ripper connection. I've been a reader of Ripper information since I was in my very early teens.

Thank God my parents never questioned my reading choices because they were pretty messed up back then and continue to be than God. See those of you questioning what kids read. I'm was obsessed with Jack The Ripper as a kid and I turned out ok. Yes my fragile little kid brain survived reading about murder and the truth about humanities depths to joyfully play in evil.

I didn't have a moment to start reading The Name Of The Star while in New Orleans, mainly due to my own writing while there, but when I got home, rested a bit, the first book I picked out of my ALA11 stacks was this fine book.

The story begins with Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux starting her studies at her new school in London. Like a lot of horror stories this tale is about life transfers from one portion of life to the next. Yes, as in a lot of horror stories this one is about a young persons life transfer into adulthood but just as the original Jack The Ripper killings were a transfer of the world at large from a time of modern society thinking it was civilized to the realization that it wasn't. Evil wasn't just for fairy tales but inside the human heart. And not very deep inside the heart either. The Ripper killings showed the world the brutality of the individual seemingly for no reason that it had tried to shield its eyes from but the inventions of technology and thinking of the time started to show all how brutally animal we are, were, and always will be. In that aspect Jack The Ripper was the craftsman of the modern worlds sense of self.

In The Name Of The Star Maureen Johnson gives you a story about life, growth, death. She introduces characters you care about. I found myself wondering who would die? Would this character? I liked that character I hope she doesn't die? Also knowing this was part one of a series made me hope none of my favorite character ended up dead. 

And while she built characters I cared about she also lead me down one road from what I was expecting from this book into something else. Then when you get comfortable as a avid reader thinking you can calm yourself into the rest of the book she shakes you with shouts that just because this story has gone this way doesn't mean you know the road these characters are on.

I think a lot of Ripper stories tend to fall flat because the writers take the source material as a excuse to write graphic scenes of violence after graphic scene. The writer here does not shy away from the brutal nature of the original killings or death itself but instead plays the story like the feeling of being in a graveyard even in the daytime and no matter what, even during smiles, and laughter, for at least seconds that you are there you just know deep down you could die here. And that's the crafting of the writer here. Even when the characters find moments of normality and peace you still get those fillings that these moments the most dangerous of their lives.

As usual I will not go into great detail about the story itself, trying not to spoil things, but I have to say I plowed throw most of this book in one day while out with Mar geocaching and if I didn't have such a huge stack of ARCs to read and review from ALA11 I would going for another Maureen Johnson book right away. Maureen Johnson writes with a talent that makes you want to know whats next, from her and her characters, and that is what a very good writer does I think.

I will not be giving this book ARC away here on the blog because I had it personally signed to me but promise future blog giveaways of materials I picked up while at ALA11.

Shades Of London, Book One: The Name Of The Star
by Maureen Johnson

4 out of 5 stars


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