Saturday, September 3, 2011

Review: The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson

As of about two minutes ago, I finished this book.

If you're lucky and live in the Northern Hemisphere, you can stroll into a bookstore and grab this book all willy-nilly. (Please pay for it, though.) If, like me, you're in Australia - sorry, you're apparently waiting til October.

I'd heard a lot about this book via Twitter. I follow Maureen Johnson and John Green for literary and general lulz. Various People of the Internet posted that they'd gotten their paws on the book.
I trotted into work and found the reader's copy of it, claimed it as my own, and devoured it.

Louisiana native Aurora - sorry, Rory -Deveraux has just started at a boarding school in England when the first murder strikes. Not only are they absolutely horrific, they mimic the Ripper murders in a really distressing way. Everyone is possessed with fear. Who is this new Ripper? The police, of course, haven't a clue. No leads. No witnesses. CCTV cameras, pointed directly at the murders, only capture the victims.
But Rory, somehow, has seen the suspect they're searching for. But no one else can see him.

London becomes quite a different London than my head likes to picture it when I read this book. It's almost as if the pictures I have stored in my mind have been brushed over with a Victorian-tinted paint (yes, it's sepia). And while this book is set in the here and now, Maureen Johnson so perfectly takes you into the depths of Rippermania, the levels that Victorian London would have shivered in. There is something that changes so subtly as you wade deeper into the pages - what appears to be a normal teen boarding school novel at first, fraught with those typical teen emotions, gradually becomes more sinister as you progress. Maybe I'm weird, but I've always viewed books with colour. Reading this, we began with glorious Technicolor. We moved to slightly brown tinges, credpig along the edges of the page. And at the end - I felt blackness. It was amazingly done, the progression to each colour so minute, I couldn't even pinpoint where each staged morphed into the next.

Characters are always what will get me hooked in a novel, and Maureen Johnson's are no exception. I adore Rory from the moment I found her leaping from the pages.

"In my town... hurricane preparations generally include buying more beer, abs ice to keep that beer cold when the power goes out. We do have a neighbour with a two-man rowboat lashed on the top of the porch roof... but that's Billy Mack, and he started his own religion in the garage, so he's got a lot more goin on than just an extreme concern for personal safety."

Jazza's quirks were instantly endearing too. Maybe it's just that I want an awesome British pal, but seriously:

"Aside from being the kind of person who used 'whom' correctly while gossiping..."

"'On Saturdays I sometimes treat myself to a sandwich and a cake.' ... Everything was a tiny celebration with her."

Alistair, Boo, Callum, Stephen. All amazing characters, all sketched out in enough detail. I found myself impatient to find out more about Stephen, and thank you, Maureen, I was given it. Rory noticing Boo's way of speaking made everything more real. Callum and the tattoo - oh, the backstory we could have!
The only character I wasn't overly impressed with was Jerome, but I found his creepy fascination with Rippers new and old extremely disturbing. Even for a journo. Even though I do the same for bridal magazines. I did find it amusing when he knew exactly how to goad Jazza into sneaking out, however.

I won't say much else in fear of destroying plot (and also, I am rather sleepy). But honestly, you must read this book. First in a series! Hooray!

And, because I cannot say it any better than Holly Black, I'll part with her words:
This book made me want to give up everything, move to London, and fight ghosts.

Even if I'm quaking in my ghost-busting boots the entire time.

(No links today. On the phone makes this rather difficult.
In the next few days - definitely during this coming week - look out for my review of Miranda Darling's latest novel, The Siren's Sting. I received it on Thursday from the kind folks at Allen and Unwin. Not only does it look to be a rockin' good read, but it's also part of this year's Get Reading campaign. So if you buy it from the 1st - 30th of September, you'll receive a free book! Awesome, right?
Anyway, more on that in the review post.)

See you soon!

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