Published May 8,2012
Summary: In this slightly more believable version of supernatural YA, lupine syndrome (otherwise known as becoming a werewolf) is running rampant across the United States. Those infected are sent to containment camps where they live out their lives never able to see their families again. The novel opens after Mackenzie’s best friend Amy has been killed by a rogue werewolf. The whole city of Hemlock is on high alert looking for the beast. Mackenzie has seen the evil containment can do and has mixed feelings about the civilian group who has come to look for the killer. Rather than showing “the daily life of a supernatural being” as all too many YA books do, Hemlock draws connections to what situations in the real world mimic the containment of lupine syndrome.
Bechdel Test?: Though Mackenzie spends most of the novel trying to choose between two guys, she does have conversations with her friends about political issues such as the containment camps and the politics of killing semi-human beings.
I truly enjoyed this book for its wonderful portrayal of how a single factor can make society think a person is evil. To me, this spoke to the HIV/AIDS scare in the 90s, the round-ups during WWII and many others. I like YA novels that bring these issues up in an accessible way to introduce readers to complex issues.
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The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Published September 2011
Summary: Rory Deveraux moves to England to attent a boarding school in London’s poshest neighborhood. As soon as she arrives killings like the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders begin. When Rory is the only witness to see the murderer she is forced into a world she doesn’t understand and suddenly she has trouble knowing what is real.
Bechdel Test?: Not even close to passing. Rory lives with two female roommates but most of their conversations revolve around boys or gossip. Also Rory’s mother doesn’t appear in the book.
Series Potential?: Eh. I’m sure that Johnson could write a sequel but I don’t like any of the characters enough to follow them forward.
This book had everything going for it in my mind: British goodness, a connection to Victorian London, a central female character, boarding school, cool supernatural elements. Unfortunately it just didn’t all come together. Honestly, the only reason I kept reading was the England/Jack the Ripper connection. Jack the Ripper has been a bit of a hobby of mine for many years now; I even wrote a paper on how his crimes changed British journalism!
The characters in The Name of the Star were flat and SPOILER ALERT I really don’t love the way the ghost concept was used. I’m an equal opportunity supernatural YA reader (and I loved the Mediator series) but the whole concept didn’t work for me.