‘The Name Of The Star’ was one of my favourite Young Adult reads this year. It was fresh and engaging, with a good story to tell, likeable characters, just the right amount of threat and an underlying optimism that I enjoyed.
This is the story of Rory Deveaux, a teenaged young woman from Louisiana, the daughter of academics, who is attending a residential Sixth Form College in the East End of London while her parents are on assignment to Bristol University..
Rory is easy to like. She’s funny and self-confident without being pushy or self-obsessed. She’s excited by being in London but she hasn’t fallen into the ‘I wish I was English’ trap. She’s comfortable with and proud of her Louisiana background. London is feeding her curiosity, not changing her identity. I found it a joy to read about a young American who wanted to be in London rather than complaining about their surprise that it’s not just like home.
The descriptions of the Sixth Form College were well done and seemed fairly real. I got a kick out of learning what Rory saw as odd (like a school timetable that varies every day). that I’d take for granted. Rory makes some friends and some (mild) enemies. She loves the reading and is horrified by having to play hockey (field hockey to American readers) and ends up being bundled into the massive padding hockey goalies wear.
Grounding Rory in this everyday world and infusing it with humour and her contagious enthusiasm, makes the threat, when it comes, have a much bigger impact.
Two things drive the threat part of the plot: a near-death experience leaves Rory with the ability to see the spirits of the dead and women are being butchered in a way that mirrors the killings by Jack The Ripper.
I won’t go into the plot here except to say that it was skilfully done, neither minimising the horror of the killings nor feeding off them and that the plot twists that brought together Rory’s news-acquired abilities with the killings and placed her at risk felt plausible and kept ratcheting up the tension.
Dealing with something this gruesome and staying within the bounds of a Young Adult book while still making the deaths of the women and the threat to Rory feel real, was quite an achievement.
I finished the book having had a thoroughly good time. I’ll be back to see how Rory fares in the next book in the ‘ Shades of London’ series, ‘The Madness Underneath’
I strongly recommend the audiobook version of ‘Name Of The Star’. My enjoyment was increased by having a narrator who all the accents right, gave the characters distinctive voices and had the perfect pace in her delivery. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.