Saturday, December 29, 2012

Books Like Whoa: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (2012 Book Countdown)

We'll proceed with another book aimed at the under 18 set - my favorite YA book of the year

The Name of the Star
by Maureen Johnson

Procured from my local library

Procured on May 14, 2012

Finished on May 19, 2012

Format: Hardcover with kind of a goofy cover, though not as goofy as the sequel's

Why I gave it a try: I heard that this book included a Southern girl, a British boarding school, and a Jack the Ripper type mystery. That was enough for me.

Summary: When Rory Deveaux's parents get a job opportunity in England during her senior year of high school, Rory decides to mix things up and go to a British boarding school in the heart of London. Fitting in is somewhat of a challenge, but Rory is soon integrating into the school's rhythms, including the requisite BFF, dreamy crush, and mean girl rival. But when a Jack the Ripper copycat starts murdering women near the school, Rory finds herself the only witness to the murderer's dastardly deeds. Can she figure out how to stop the baddie before he kills again?

Thoughts: This is another book that benefited from me not knowing much about how the plot was going to turn - so again, I will not be giving you much more information.

Let's just say that with that plot turn, this book went from having most of my favorite tropes in it to having damn near all of them. Meaning, I really, really enjoyed this book. It definitely includes some wish fulfillment on my end- what this Southern girl wouldn't have given to go to a British boarding school! (BTW, why are we Americans so enchanted by British culture? I think it's some kind of weird daddy complex, but I'm not sure)

The writing is not perfect, but I found it well above average for this type of YA fiction. Johnson has a penchant for rather stereotypical character types, but she makes them interesting enough that I didn't feel resentful. She also manages to have a believable framework to address to plot points that stretch reality - this is actually where I thought her creativity and originality were best displayed and I look forward to her exploring that more in subsequent books.

This is also simply a highly satisfying Ripper mystery. There are a lot of people (including myself) who are morbidly intrigued with that most famous of all unsolved serial murders. Johnson incorporates that part of the story ably and keeps the tone appropriate for the target audience. The result is a fun mystery that was enjoyable to parse as you went along.

The criticism of this book has been interesting for me to read - it seems to be mostly adults criticizing this book for not being at an adult reading level. Well... duh. It's YA. And very well done YA. This feeds into a larger question I've been mulling over - what is the proper place for YA books in an adult's reading life? I'm not totally sure, but I definitely think that adults' perception of YA books is coloring their reception too much these days. Anyways, that's a discussion for another time...

The Name of the Star was a really enjoyable and age group appropriate thriller, and one that at least this adult really liked. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, which will be out in February 2013. Can't wait!


5 - It's really good; well written and pleasurable 

How do you think the adult interest in YA is impacting that niche?

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