The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Challenge 43 ~ “A book about a thing that goes bump in the night.”


★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

I’ve recently been told I seem to read (and recommend) very niche books – those that are out there, and are just as good, but don’t dominate the YA domain. It’s led me to thinking about where I discover these books, and a lot of the time I actually don’t know. The Name of the Star is a case in point. With ghosts and ghost-hunting, it’s not the kind of thing I’d pick up and be ‘oh, I should read this‘, and judging by my shelves it’s not likely something Goodreads recommended either. So quite where I happened upon this ebook I’m not sure, but it’s been a nice distraction from some of the other books I should really be finishing. Ghosts and all.

The very first thing that struck me about The Name of the Star was how perfectly Johnson had captured the essence of trans-Atlantic room-mates. Just this past year I have been in the very same situation, and the balance of awkwardness, clashing cultures and then sudden tight-as-thieves-ness was all eerily spot on. My only slight double-take was with the lack of Cornish pronunciation and grammar techniques that Jazza seemed to have, but this was a) extremely minor, b) not something you’d expect a non-south-west person to know about and c) easily explained if Jazza went to private school from a young age. As for the other errors about the English education system that I’ve heard about from other reviews, they failed to jump out at me – whether I was too engrossed in the book and roomie realism, or they were small/non-existent, however, I couldn’t say.

I also found the protagonist’s voice relatable, realistic and not in the least annoying. (Should I be worried that this suggests we’re pretty similar, and both irritating?) Rory was thrown into another culture, found herself in the middle of some serial murders and yet picked up on the quirks and humours that make the English (and the English school system) unique. Even for a Brit it gave an alternative perspective to the doom and gloom of a rainy London, and made the book both more relatable and a sense of appeal for non-supernatural fanatics.

This challenge was originally going to be one of the most difficult for me this year. I don’t really do horror, and I can’t say I stack up my TBR with much supernaturally stuff either. Currently reading Himself by Jess Kidd thanks to NetGallery, I was going to use that for the challenge, but suddenly I stumbled across The Name of the Star, and a week later here we are. So, non-supernaturally-stroke-bizarre-spooky-Halloween-thing-fans, if you’re looking for something for challenge 43, here you are. A nice read that offers mystery more than spooky, with some great characterisation and light-hearted observations of England’s quirks. Is it recommendation enough that the sequel is already on my TBR?

Recommended for fans of:

  • Shelter  by Harlan Coben
  • Virals by Kathy Reichs
  • Torn by Cat Clark

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