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YA Historical Lit: Connect Then to Now

Title: The Name of the Star

Author: Maureen Johnson

Length: 384 pages

Aurora “Rory” Devaux is an American teen attending Wexford Academy, a posh boarding school in London. While Rory is settling in to her dorm room and meeting her roommate, a young woman is murdered and the details of the case bear a striking resemblance to Jack the Ripper’s murders in the early 20th century. As “Rippermania” grips London, Rory and her new classmates watch as the police fumble to find a lead. Except Rory thinks she has seen him, but even though her roommate was with her, there’s no other person who can corroborate her sighting. Fraught with suspense and a touch of the paranormal, Johnson’s story takes readers right back to the heart of what made Jack the Ripper so frightening: his identity and motives were completely unknown. Rory and her new friends have to navigate the ever-increasing restrictions being placed on students at Wexford to see if they can help stop the murderer before he kills again.

BRIDGE: This novel spans mutiple genres and could be used in a variety of ways. The Name of the Star would work well as a springboard for research on a number of different topics: Jack the Ripper or serial killers in general, Victorian England, paranormal history, or boarding school/college dynamics.  One could use this in a cross-curricular literature circle activity with other YA novels which reference real historic events like Donnelly”s Revolution or Witch Child & Sorceress by Celia Rees.

READERS: This book appeals to mystery fans as well as drawing in the paranormal contingent. Rory is a likeable Southern girl thrown into a unfamiliar situation and would be a suggestion for readers dealing with a new situation of their own. Students with inquisitive minds would be drawn into the story and history/nonfiction buffs will like the real-life connections.

OTHER TITLES: Readers who enjoy this book would also enjoy the 39 Clues books or the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books by Rick Riordan.

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