A review of “Truly Devious,” which was also Truly Delightful

January 24, 2018

(Originally posted on my old book review blog, HilliterateBlog!)

Hiya, bookworms — exciting post for you today (I'm excited, anyway, and I hear that stuff is contagious) because I'm writing about a BRAND NEW book! I pre-ordered Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson about a month prior to its release last Tuesday and had been anxiously awaiting its arrival! Some snow in my area delayed it a bit, but I was thrilled to receive my ~*signed copy*~ and ~*special sticker*~ as soon as the mail was able to make it. LOOK HOW BEAUTIFUL!

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Convenient that I happened to be working a Disney villains puzzle this week, huh?

Besides being beautiful, Truly Devious was a really entertaining read. It's a YA mystery that takes place at a boarding school in Vermont called the Ellingham Academy. Ellingham is famous for its founder, the wealthy businessman Albert Ellingham, and for the kidnapping of Ellingham's wife, daughter, and a student that took place at the school in the 1930s. The crime remains unsolved to the present, in which the story is primarily set.

Each student at the Ellingham Academy ends up there because they are in some way exceptional — one has written a book, another is constantly building and inventing things, one more has produced and starred in his own viral YouTube show. Stevie Bell finds herself at Ellingham because she is obsessed with murder mysteries, and she intends to solve the school's own. Throughout the story, readers see Stevie get a feel for the place that her friend Nate refers to as her own personal "Murder Disney World," a place about which she has studied every detail, educated herself on all the information available about what took place there one night in 1936. While she seeks the clues and answers that others have overlooked in the past 80 years, she finds herself unexpectedly wrapped up in a new mystery. There has been another murder at Ellingham.

Dun dun DUUUNNN. Johnson is truly one of my favorite YA authors, and her latest did not disappoint. Her characters are relatable, the dialogue clever and funny, and the plot captivating. In addition to getting straight to the heart of what it's like to be a lover of all things murder mystery and true crime, she depicts through Stevie and friends a number of other circumstances faced by real people, young and old, such as living with an anxiety disorder, having parents/family/important people in your life with whom you completely disagree politically, and being a creative professional. She does all of this seamlessly, without it ever feeling like too many different topics are being dumped on the reader. Rather, it all made me feel more invested in the characters and like I was very much a part of Stevie's world and life at Ellingham.

Finally, what I love/hate about Truly Devious is that it is the first book in a series. Okay, I don't really hate it, but cliffhangers!! I now have to wait until next January to find out what happened where Johnson left me dangling. But the positive side of this is that there is still more story to come. And that's definitely enough positive to outweigh my distaste for waiting.

While I wait, I may also revisit another Johnson mystery series that I love, Shades of London. I gave a brief review here but I definitely recommend once again that anyone who is into YA mystery/crime/sci-fi-ish things check that one out. And naturally, go pick up your copy of Truly Devious!

I'd love to hear about your favorite mysteries, YA, etc. in the comments! Always appreciate recommendations. :)

Happy reading until next time,

K. Hill

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