Erin 's Reviews > The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
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Mar 06, 2011

it was ok
Read from January 05 to 07, 2012

Find the enhanced version of this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

The only thought in my head for much of the reading was that of Alexis Bledel as Rory Gilmore. It doesn’t do much credit to a story when the reader is perpetually distracted by a pop culture reference. You don’t see Heathcliff or Rochester being thrown around the literary world for a reason. The goal is to hook your reader, not set them in mind of other amusements. Perhaps I am too judgmental but I feel this was an exceeding poor choice on Johnson’s part especially since we are talking about her protagonist. Chapter one is bad place to identify your first red flag.

I also found Johnson’s assumptions presumptuous especially as she is an American. For example, the central character is greeted at what I assume to be Heathrow by Mr. Franks who informs her that “Some nutter’s gone and pulled a Jack the Ripper.” She barely even registers the name and doesn’t attempt to understand the reference. Maybe I am mistaken but I was under the impression that the name Jack the Ripper is what sold this book. Okay, Rory is American but we aren’t completely incompetent. She may not know the details of the case but the name would certainly ring a bell. I was similarly irked by Johnson’s need to explain the term “prefect.” Again, I know we are largely considered uncultured, ignorant and arrogant but give us a little credit. Harry Potter mania wasn’t limited to jolly ol’ England mate. To be fair I did appreciate the explanations of Bonfire Night and the local perception of pubs and alcohol in general but I would have been happier if I didn’t feel the author was insulting the general intelligence of teenage America.

Thoroughly annoyed is not a good way to begin the third chapter of any book and things don’t get much better. The writing is mediocre but the pacing is the nail in the coffin. The story doesn’t take off until the last hundred pages but getting there like slogging up a mountain in the rain. Irrelevant anecdotes about Rory’s family, Wexford’s daily menus and occasional episodes of awkward snogging leave little room for character or plot development. Rory doesn’t go after the killer until she realizes she is a target but she also doesn’t have any genuine interest in what is going on around her. No, our insipid heroine is only relieved the threat and subsequent media circus have resulted in cancelled hockey sessions with Charlotte and Call Me Claudia. Why should a reader be interested in a story the primary character is a) not interested in and b) largely uninvolved with?

Before I close I invite those of you own a copy of the book to turn it over. There, on the back cover you will find glowing remarks from Cassandra Clare, Ally Carter and Holly Black. Now again, I beg your indulgence and ask you to open the book to the Acknowledgments section. Here you will find the following statement:

“To my friends, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Robin Wasserman, Holly Black, Cassie Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, John Green, Libba Bray, Ally Carter… who read drafts, walked me through plot problems, and talked me off of ledges.”

I don’t know about you but I find it appalling that Johnson and publisher G.P. Putnam’s Sons would stoop so low. It would be different if these were unbiased third parties or professional critics but by the author’s own pen, these are her friends. As such their opinions are irrelevant. Additionally the appearance of their feedback paired with Johnson’s admission call into question the integrity of all three women as they are essentially endorsing a piece they had a hand in creating. Bad form all around, bad form.

At this point you may be wondering why I have issued a two star rating rather than flagging The Name of the Star a complete waste of time. The truth is I, like so many others, have a rather morbid curiosity in regards to the Whitechapel murders. The basic concepts of the story are not altogether horrid and I actually really like the idea Johnson was trying to execute. The Ripper theme wasn't as strong as I had hoped but there were a handful of chapters towards the end where I actually felt the book was getting better. This brief shining moment was subsequently followed but a train wreck but that doesn’t change the fact that for a few pages, hope existed.

On the fence about taking on book two when it is published in the fall. If I learned anything from Anna Godberson’s Luxe series or Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy it is to listen to my gut and quit while I’m ahead. Still, I like to think authors improve with time and experience. I have yet to identify anyone who fits the description but I have been known to torture myself searching for that elusive diamond in the rough.
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Reading Progress

01/05/2012 page 118
32.0% "The only reason this book hasn't flown through a window is because doing so would require my paying the library for damages." 4 comments
01/06/2012 page 253
68.0% "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."
02/11/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-41 of 41) (41 new)

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message 1: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt That's a super cool cover.


Erin I'm definitely guilty of judging books on the jackets. It came up on my update email and I couldn't pass it up.


message 3: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt My library was unable to obtain this. I dunno why.


message 4: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt Is this from the library or??? I'm wondering if you would be willing to pass it on if its YOURS. I gave up scoring a copy and my library couldn't get it for some reason.


Erin Library copy. Sorry. :(


message 6: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt Doesn't sound good anyway.


Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Just by the sounds of your comment Erin..dont think this one would work for me. Thanks for the "head's-up" on it.


message 8: by Erin (last edited Jan 07, 2012 04:43PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erin It didn't get much better. The story ended up having some decent points but Johnson killed it in the final scenes.

There was also a stupid reference to Twilight that irked me more than I care to admit.

Just happy I didn't buy the book. For me Johnson is in the same category as Libba Bray - interesting ideas, horrid execution.


Erin Have a few more details to add to my review but my draft is currently on my husband's lap top in our living room.

Generally not a problem but he fell asleep on it. Wouldn't be very nice of me to wake him up considering it isn't yet six in the morning.


Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Look forward to your review then:)


Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Great review Erin! But I hate to admit..I didnt mind The Luxe Series..maybe I was in a "tolerate" mood at the time,and probably would look at it differently now. But this one..so glad I didnt waste the $$$ so thanks for that. :)


Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Is this this authors first book? Maybe the second will be better..if you dare:)


message 13: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Gee, nothing like nepotism, eh?


Erin Johnson has a few books out including 13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope. New to the game but not a newbie.

The Luxe series has moments I liked but overall it was so-so. 2 stars from me isn't awful. It is more a "I really wasn't impressed" or "not for me."

To be honest I am really interested to see the premise. Not sure I'll read the book but she used up Jack the Ripper here and I really think that was what garnered so much attention. Be interesting to see how she intends to keep it.


Erin Callista wrote: "Gee, nothing like nepotism, eh?"

Amen to that! I've never read Black or Carter but I've sampled Clare. Not in love with her work but not against it either. Thing is I don't think I'll be able to factor this little episode out of my opinion from here on out.


message 16: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Even if she's not new, having glowing comments from her friends/critique partners on the jacket is just too much. Like you said, why couldn't they help her write a better book? (Though I don't think C. Clare could.)
2 stars is that for me, too--underwhelmed. Not total dreck, but not a thrill.
Like you, those patronising explanations/ignorant Americanisms would've had me steaming.


message 17: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Callista wrote: "Gee, nothing like nepotism, eh?"

It's pretty rampant in some circles. You see the same names over and over blurbling each other, and they are all BFF in real life. Very bad form.


Erin I don't know why she did it. She is from the States. She should have a decent idea of what people here are aware of right? I actually googled CCTV, an aspect central to the plot but never explained, because I'd never heard the term. I don't get why she felt it necessary to explain things like "Jack the Ripper was a serial killer" and not things that a large portion of the United States is unaware of (apparently CCTV is popular in New York - news to this westerner).

Other things left me scratching me head. There is a low blow at Stephanie Meyers regarding her lion/lamb dialogue between Edward and Bella. Fine in a blog or a review but I felt it was inappropriate and unprofessional in a book that will probably be shelved with Twilight at Barnes and Noble.

I also have a burning question about the Spice Girls but I don't know any 17 year olds to ask. Do they even know what "Tell me what you want, what you really, really want" is a reference to? That song was cool when I was in middle school but are teen readers familiar with it now? Maybe more so on the other side of the Atlantic. Cultural difference. Not something I hold against Johnson's effort here. I just think it was an interesting choice and would love to know a little more about how that scene is viewed by an English reader.


message 19: by Nicole (last edited Jan 08, 2012 02:47PM) (new)

Nicole I can only see getting away with having to explain Jack the Ripper if your main character is one very, very self-absorbed, shallow, C- student of a fashion and hair dye obsessed girl.
Not living in Britain, I have no idea if a current-day 17 year old knows anything about the Spice Girls. But do 17 year olds in America know anything about 80s Madonna? There are all these 80s radio stations popping back up...


Erin Good points.


message 21: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Thanks so much, BTW, for planting that song in my mental soundtrack. It'll take a couple of days to drown it with something else. ;p :)


Erin Blame Johnson!!! I didn't even bother writing that details into my notes (upside of kindle is the highlight feature, books require old school pen and paper review notes). I know the minute I read it I would have the song stuck in my head. LOL.


message 23: by Lance (new)

Lance Greenfield Excellent, candid review Erin.

That is so bad regarding the blurb by friends of the author. 'Nuff sed!

And those explanations of Jack the Ripper and so on sound so patronising. Of course I would expect that most well-read Americans would know something of the Whitechapel murders, just as us Brits would know something of the Boston Strangler. These are world-famous cases.

All in all, it sounds like I should not even bother to search for this book in my local library.

Thank you so much for such a great heads up.


Erin Case and point Lance! Thank you. :D

Apparently my comments on the author assessments have offended some readers. No one has to agree with me but I don't see where I've crafted a conspiracy theory either. Anyone have any ideas?


Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* There always has to be someone to get up on that "soap box" to put another down because they express their opinion or likes/dislikes. I for one am glad you gave an honest review of your time with this book. I can still make up my own mind ,but geez if there isnt negative as well as positive..then what is the point of a review,and how can we decide if the book is right for us? Did some reader contact you Erin and comment to you? Or the author?


message 26: by Erin (last edited Aug 01, 2013 01:32AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erin Blog comment actually. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. Marg, a follower on my blog, commented that she really enjoyed the book. I am very happy her experience was better than my own and I told her so.

Another person commented about the conspiracy theory which is what I don't understand. They don't like that I doubt the women who endorsed the novel which is fine but I didn't allege anything so far as I can tell. Just thought it was an off the wall accusation. Could have simply said 'hey I don't agree' you know?

And I totally agree. There has to be room for negative and positive or else there is no point. :)


message 27: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Interesting comments there. Jacket blurbs are virtually worthless to me, as are any reviews from someone reviewing another friend. They can't be wholly objective.


message 28: by Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* (last edited Jan 11, 2012 04:03PM) (new)

Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* So true Misfit..I for one have a bad habit of going for the cover first,then III take a look at the back,but still I like to have different opinions of the book as well as how its written and I feel Erin helped me in both aspects for helping me choose to read or not.And yeah..a simple "I dont agree" should have been enough.


Tammie I completely agree with what you had to say about the little blurbs on the back cover from the other authors. It really irks me when that is done. All of their comments made the book sound much better than it actually was too.


Erin Agreed :)


message 31: by Beck (new) - rated it 3 stars

Beck I'm fairly certain that cover blurbs from authors are almost always requested by their publishers and therefore a bit sketchy regardless of whether the reviewing authors are friends with the reviewed author or had a hand in the writing of the book. But that seems an oddly transparent/direct conflict of interest there...


message 32: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Each to their own - I enjoyed the pop-culture references and the protagonist's snarky take on things.


Erin Glad you liked it Tom. Agree to disagree on this one. :)


Jenny Thurlow Rory in Gilmore Girls is short for Lorelei which is different from Aurora saying you were distracting by a common name like Rory is dumb. Thats's like saying I can't read any books with a main character Elizabeth because I have read Pride and Prejudice. BTW Rory is also short for Aaron.


message 35: by Erin (last edited Jul 10, 2013 09:01PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erin Jenny wrote: "Rory in Gilmore Girls is short for Lorelei which is different from Aurora saying you were distracting by a common name like Rory is dumb. Thats's like saying I can't read any books with a main char..."

Thanks for your input Jenny, you make a point, but it doesn't change how I feel about the book. I was honest in my thoughts of this book and while I appreciate your need to comment on my thoughts, I find it sad that you would resort to calling someone's thoughts dumb. Disagree all you want, make a solid argument to the contrary, but resorting to name calling and labeling isn't attractive.


Jenny Thurlow I was trying not to use a stronger word. Names are just a small detail. The book was more about how Rory discovers ghosts and Jack the Ripper. In any case I am not saying that you or your thoughts are dumb just the idea of judging the book on a character name is ridiculous.


message 37: by Erin (last edited Jul 11, 2013 05:17PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erin Jenny wrote: "I was trying not to use a stronger word. Names are just a small detail. The book was more about how Rory discovers ghosts and Jack the Ripper. In any case I am not saying that you or your thoughts ..."

Perhaps that is not the best way to begin a response, my initial thought was that you meant to call my thoughts something more than dumb, but thank you for the clarification.

As to the power of a character's name I think we must agree to disagree. There are times at which a name can be nothing more than a name, but I think that names have the potential to carry certain baggage, weight and meaning - all of which can positively or negatively affect a given story. Much like an ill-phrased comment, it is all in how a potential reader might interpret one's choice of word or phrase.

Having given the book five stars you obviously feel differently than I about The Name of the Star. Good on you for that. I'm glad you liked it and didn't feel it a waste of your time. Johnson wrote a sequel that was released earlier this year, perhaps you will find it equally enjoyable.


Rachel Beck is spot on about review blurbs being unreliable. I think it might even be in an authors contract to write a blurb about another writer - that's why sometimes they are very generic.
I also had no problem with the name Rory (I have only sporadically watched Gilmore Girls) so I didn't make a connection. But I did (positively)connect with the 80's references...The Smiths and their lyrics (my generation).
Finally, I was not offended by her misunderstanding of the Jack the Ripper comment from Franks. It did not indicate to me that she had no knowledge of JtR, but that she did not jump to a conclusion that a copycat serial killer was disemboweling Londoners. As in saying "going postal". The original incident refers to murdering fellow employees at work, but people also use the expression over minor things, "my mom's going postal 'cause I didn't wash the dishes".
I agree that her family stories seemed kind of pointless, but overall I enjoyed the book (and actually appreciated the fact that life in boarding school was reflected more realistically as essentially boring - a lot of time studying - instead of a crowd of rich girls who model in their spare time, fly to islands for weekend parties and stock their rooms with Dom)


Erin Good for you?


Rachel Sorry. I thought this was a discussion.


Erin No offense taken. I'm glad you enjoyed this book more than I did, truly. I just don't have anything to add to my original comments. I didn't mean to sound rude, I just don't know how best to respond under the circumstances.

I really am glad you liked it and that the material didn't affect you the way it did me. Beauty of books is that they are open to interpretation and can touch people in so many different ways.


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