The Name of the Star / Maureen Johnson
New York : G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011. 394 p. Shades of London ; bk. 1. ISBN 9780399256608

 I had the pleasure of being Maureen Johnson‘s escort when she attended the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 2010. I was completely unfamiliar with her writing at the time. Even now, embarrassingly, I have only read Let It Snow, though I have Devilish and 13 Little Blue Envelopes in  Mount To-Be-Read (Mt. TBR).

Maureen is outrageously witty, and deeply committed to, I think, not only entertaining young people through her books, but helping them to think positively about themselves and their futures, and to lead pro-active lives. She interacts with her readers through Twitter (@maureenjohnson) and her website (http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com/), spearheading outreach activities that involve hundreds, if not thousands of people, and thousands, if not tens of thousands, dollars in philanthropic efforts.

So, last weekend I attended the American Libraries Association’s annual conference in New Orleans, and discovered not only did Maureen have a new book coming out, but she would be there signing the ARCs. Of course, I had to see her/have one!

My habit is, for better or worse, to consume a good book: reading it every spare minute until it is finished. With a few, however, I like to take it slowly, savoring the story. I did this with The Name of the Star , reading a few chapters for several nights just before sleeping. Once I got about half-way through, though, I reverted to my all-consuming approach. I finished this afternoon.

Maureen calls this book paranormal. (She was actually heading to London to do research immediately following the book festival last year.) There’s a mystery. There’s a murder. There are ghosts. There are young people, teens to twenty-somethings. There’s young love and ‘coming of age.’

An especially touching part of the book is a conversation between Jo and Aurora (Rory) — remember I’m quoting an ARC:

… “And there are really good people who can catch this Ripper.”
“I know,” I said, ” but … they’re all … really young. Like me.”
“Who do you think goes into the army? Young people. This entire nation was defended by young people. Young people on the battlefield. Young people in airplanes. Young people in the headquarters, breaking codes”…

 I wasn’t sure how the story would end, as it is the first of a trilogy. It was quite a surprise, and really made me smile with pleasure at how Maureen did it.

I hope we don’t have to wait too long for the 2nd book — will Alistair (please) return in book 2?? — but, then, this one isn’t out until September this year!

There are times we can be thankful for our Mt. TBR, right?