The Name of the Star

cover image for The Name of the StarJohnson, Maureen. (2012) The Name of the Star. New York, NY: G. P. Putnum’s Sons

Plot Summary:

Rory’s parents are spending their sabbatical teaching at the The University of Bristol.  So Rory gets to finish up high school at Wexford, a private boarding school in London rather than back home in Louisiana.  After a somewhat rocky start, including getting drafted for the field hockey team and almost choking to death in the dining hall on her third day, Rory settles in and finds her niche. But Rory’s time in England may not end up being the postcard perfect experience she was hoping for.  There’s a killer on the loose in London; someone is copying Jack the Ripper’s kills – and Wexford is right in the center of his favorite hunting grounds.

Critical Evaluation:

Name of the Star is typical MJ: clever, heartfelt, and more than a little bit off (in a good way).  The oddness makes the pacing less perfect that it could be, but it also takes what might have been a very predictable story about supernatural killers and instead keeps readers constantly guessing about who is going to do what next – and why.  Like Johnson herself, the characters have personality to spare, but never come across as larger than life or someone you would only meet in the pages of a book.  Overall, it was quite enjoyable and I very much look forward to the rest of the series – and I think many teens will too.

Reader’s Annotation:

A murderer is on the loose in London, recreating the crimes of the city’s most notorious serial kill: Jack the Ripper – and Rory’s school is right in the middle of his hunting ground.

Author Information:


(if you are not following Johnson on twitter, you should be. She’s hilarious.)



Booktalking Ideas:

This is a good title for “what if?” type questions.  What if you had to go to another school for your last year? What if you started seeing ghosts? etc.

Reading Level/Target Age:

5th grade/14-18

Potential Controversy:

There is sneaking out, drinking (but legally! well, mostly), and of course murder and supernatural elements.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

All of the other books of Johnson’s that I have read were on the scale of “enjoyable” to “awesome.”



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