by Maureen Johnson
Maureen Johnson has assembled all the ingredients needed for a great thriller in her latest book, The Name of the Star. There’s Rory the likeable, amusing, relatable narrator and protagonist, who arrives to spend a semester at Wexford Boarding School in London from rural Louisana. There’s a dash of romance between Rory and one of the school’s prefects, Jerome. Then Johnson mixes in some great new friends, including Rory’s new roommate Jazza. Think of the romance and relatable friendship elements as frosting on a cake of suspenseful, nail-biting thrills. Now to those suspenseful parts- the semester starts off pretty well for Rory except for an incident where she choked on her dinner and need the Heimlich maneuver, but then a body is found gruesomely murdered and then another: on the same days, at the same locations, and with the same methods used in the Jack the Ripper murders more than 100 years ago. The city of London is in the grips of “Rippermania” and Wexford is right in the middle of it. As the action rises, Rory finds herself as the only witness shortly before one of the murders was committed. Even though Jazza was right next to her she didn’t see the man who stopped Rory. Rory starts to think she might be losing her mind a bit, especially when her and Jazza get a new roommate, Boo, who really turns Rory’s world upside down and she suddenly finds herself right in the middle of the Ripper’s plans.