I have mixed feelings about The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, and its sequel, The Madness Underneath. I really enjoyed her book 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and I guess I was comparing this series to that one.
Aurora “Rory” Deveaux is from a swampy town near New Orleans, Louisiana. Both of her parents take a job teaching American Law at the University of Bristol for one year in England. Rory decides to join her parents for the year in England and to attend a boarding school in London called Wexford.
Rory has kind of an awkward personality. She’s a little ditsy and talks ALL THE TIME. About nothing in particular, really. And she makes up stuff a lot just to have a story to tell. Now, I’m not going to lie, some of the shit that comes out of her mouth (or in her thoughts) is quite funny.
Shortly after Rory’s arrival at Wexford, killings start happening around London that mimic those of Jack the Ripper. The weird part: No images are ever caught of the killer on any CCTVs.
Then while at dinner one night, as Rory is rambling on about some dramatic tale, she chokes on a meat pie and nearly dies (yes, by choking on a meat pie…I know, right?!). This (ridiculous) near-death experience gives her “The Sight,” enabling her to see ghosts. She finds out about a team of Secret Ghost Police in London and starts hanging out with them to try to catch the killer ghost, because he keeps hanging around Rory at school and she starts seeing him everywhere—and no else can.
The story is well written and the narration is quite humorous, but the main character kind of got on my nerves. I had a hard time relating to her. The whole “ghost serial killer” thing was well told and pretty creepy…it had the desired effect of making me jumpy. I found the plot to be a bit slow moving, though. And I thought the ending to The Madness Underneath was a bit ludicrous, but I am still intrigued enough in the series to read the next installment when it comes out.
The Name of the Star is on the 2014 Louisiana Teen Readers’ Choice Nominated Title List (LTRC), due to the main character originating from a fictional town in Louisiana (my home state).
All in all, I would give this book (and its sequel) three out of five stars.
Great quotes from the series:
“Where I come from, it’s too hot to run, and it’s generally not encouraged. The joke is, if you see someone running in Benouville, you run in the same direction, because there’s probably something really terrible right behind them.” –The Name of the Star
“Annoy a southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death.”—The Name of the Star
“On the way here, I saw someone pissing on a wall,” I said. “It reminded me of you.”
“That was me,” he replied. “I was writing a poem about your beauty.” –The Madness Underneath