REVIEW: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

by - 10:15 AM

“There is nothing so serious as a game.”

Back of the book blurb:

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. "A place" he said, "where learning is a game."
  Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.
  True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

Chase’s thoughts:

Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 420
ISBN: 9780062338051

Available for Purchase:

My rating:

            I have been so into murder mysteries lately. Friends and Other Liars was incredible as well as Sara Shepard’s new Amateur series. When I picked up Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious I was intrigued to say the least. A murder mystery paired with a boarding school? It’s like my dream come true. There’s something about boarding schools that always makes me so happy! I think it’s because of PCA from Zoey 101. Who wouldn’t want to go to a bomb ass school in the middle of nowhere? Well… probably a lot of people, BUT I AM NOT ONE OF THEM. I want to be at Ellingham Academy. ANYWAY, I was excited for Truly Devious and it definitely did not let me down.

“She stood back and examined the overall effect, then tweaked until the arrangement was just right. Where her books were, she was. Get the books right and the rest will follow.”

            Truly Devious starts out with our protagonist, Stevie Bell, moving into the elusive Ellingham Academy. There’s no special way to get in. If you’re chosen, you know they did not make a mistake. Stevie Bell, however, really does not know why she was chosen. But she was, nonetheless, so she makes it to Ellingham Academy where famous murders took place back in the 1930s. Stevie Bell is determined to solve the cold case.

            Honestly? Stevie was such a fun protagonist. She is extremely intelligent (if a bit naïve), so funny, and just… amazing. It was so fun to experience life with her, especially as she learns about things such as kissing boys, making true friends, and just becoming who she is meant to be.

“Vitamin D,” Stevie said. “You need it.”
“You don’t know that,” he said. “I want to eat my meat in my room with the lights off.”
“As a writer, are those really the words you want to use?” Stevie asked.” 

            Gah, I absolutely adore big groups of friends in books. Especially ones as hilarious and amazing as the friends in Truly Devious. They had so much chemistry right from the beginning and it just felt like it was right. Like, this group of random people were just meant to be together—to be in each other’s lives. It also really warmed my heart to read how Stevie learns how to be a friend and how to have friends. Ugh. SO GREAT.

“The critical scene of the mystery is when the detective enters. The action shifts to Sherlock’s sitting room. The little Belgian man with the waxed moustache appears in the lobby of the grand hotel. The gentle old woman with a bag of knitting comes to visit her niece when the poison pen letters start going around the village. The private detective comes back to the office after a night of drinking and finds the woman with the cigarette and the veiled hat. This is when things will change.”

            I honestly love the mystery. And to be honest, I’ve learned so much from Stevie (and Maureen, obviously). The plot is so thorough and it kept me turning the page to find out what would happen next. It’s atmospheric, intriguing, and suspenseful. I know there are still two more books in this trilogy, but I WAS SO SHOCKED AT THAT ENDING. UGH, GUYS, SERIOUSLY. Truly Devious will absolutely keep you on your toes. So much happens and Maureen throws so much at you that you’ll literally be hanging on every word to keep you afloat.

“Shock is a funny thing. Things get both sharp and fuzzy. Time stretches and distorts. Things come rushing into focus and seem larger than they are. Other things vanish to a single point.”

            I think one of the unsung heroes of this story is the fact that Maureen sheds a much needed light on anxiety. Stevie suffers from it and Maureen does such an excellent job at showing how real anxiety is and how it affects you and the people around you. So many people just dismiss it and say “just calm down” and that’s never the answer.

            Truly Devious is so fun, mysterious, and thrilling! Definitely check this one out.

Happy Reading!

The Wandereader

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