Tuesday, March 13, 2012

YA Edgar Nominee Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The third book in my kid lit Edgar nominees read-a-thon gave me a change of pace. After the fast-paced thrillers by Harlan Coben and Todd Strasser, Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star felt like a slower ride. But the book was no less interesting and gripping, just more of a mystery. There's a puzzle to solve, so settle in and enjoy the journey, was what this book seemed to say.

Rory, a teen from Louisiana, gets to spend a year at a London boarding school. Okay, so I rolled my eyes a little when I saw this boarding school angle--let's face it, it's been done. But Johnson obviously did her homework, because the details of the British school system and the colorful way she described Wexford made me regret my initial reaction. I quickly got to love Jazza, Jerome, and the rest of the Wexford population.

The book opens with the usual mystery body discovery, but then it took a while to get back to the dunnit--largely because Johnson took a good amount of time to let us watch Rory scramble to adjust to Wexford. But eventually, it becomes pretty clear that the story is not just any mystery, but a ghost hunting expedition as well.

I won't spoil the rest of the book, because you really should read it yourself. Despite some pacing and revelation hiccups, The Name of the Star is such a smart, well-written story that I didn't care that I had to watch Rory get settled at Wexford before the mystery got hot. Great YA voice, too. It's Agatha Christie meets Ghostbusters meets YA. If that makes sense.

Verdict: Perfect YA. Girl protagonist, but not a girly book, so recommended for guys too. Smart. Cool.

Mystery Quotient: 4 out 5 because of the supernatural element. But pacing more like a traditional mystery.

Side-note: This is just the sort of book I wish had been around when I was a teen.

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