Skip to main content

Truly Devious

Review

Truly Devious

In TRULY DEVIOUS, the new novel by New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson, we follow a new and exciting character, Stevie Bell, as she navigates the infamous Ellingham Academy. Albert Ellingham, the founder of this free academy for gifted children, experienced a devastating lost in the 1930s when his wife, Iris, and daughter, Alice, were kidnapped while on a drive. The only evidence was a letter sent before the kidnapping, pasted together with cut-out magazine letters, and signed by the supposed kidnapper and killer, “Truly, Devious.”

Although there was a suspect who arrested and charged, Stevie, a present-day crime aficionado, is unconvinced that the crime has truly been solved. This is largely a part of the reason she was admitted to Ellingham Academy. She cannot wait to go, make new friends and solve the decades-old mystery of the kidnapping. But as she delves into the once cold case, she discovers alarming truths and the sudden death of a classmate forces her to rethink her enrollment in Ellingham Academy and everything she thought she knew about true crime.

"The characters, dialogue and intricacy...were all top notch....If you need me in the next year or so, I will be eagerly awaiting the sequel to TRULY DEVIOUS."

When I first started this novel, I knew immediately I would be hooked. Lately, I have been in a terrible reading slump, so starting something that I instantly know I would definitely finish was a major relief and very exciting. Not only was this book incredibly engrossing, but it also got better as it went along. At first, I did not like the flashbacks to the day of the kidnapping. I felt like it revealed a lot, and I still would have preferred if that part of it had been left a mystery. Also, even though Stevie was supposed to be a junior in high school (so around 16/17), sometimes the book read as a middle grade. But as the novel went on, the flashbacks turned into excerpts from the investigation, which I loved. Also, Stevie’s viewpoint became increasingly mature and relatable, so it might have symbolized her transition from sheltered by her parents to a more cultured and artistic environment and how that changed her.

All in all, I loved Stevie as a character, and I cannot wait to see even more of her character development in the next two books in this trilogy. As for the other characters, there were so many of them that I became confused about who was who. Also, I believe that some of these other characters could have been developed more. I felt that Stevie, David (who I loved and hated) and Nate were the only ones who were substantially developed. Hopefully, since this will be a trilogy, there will be more development for the other characters in the upcoming novels.

By the end, I was actually on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen at the culmination of the story. After Stevie went a little nuts trying to solve not one, but two, murder cases (which was my absolute favorite part of the novel), and then finally put it all together, I had no idea where the book would leave off. Without any spoilers, I have to say that I was completely surprised by the ending of this novel. I did feel like it could have ended a couple chapters earlier for a bigger cliffhanger, but I was still satisfied with the ending we were given.

All in all, TRULY DEVIOUS is one of the best books I have read in a while, and it managed to keep my attention for all 418 pages, which is a rarity these days. The characters, dialogue and intricacy of the mysteries woven into this novel were all top notch, and I cannot imagine how much these elements will improve in the upcoming novels. If you need me in the next year or so, I will be eagerly awaiting the sequel to TRULY DEVIOUS.

Perfect for fans of THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin, anything by Agatha Christie, and if you are looking for someone a little darker but still mysterious, try any novel from Gillian Flynn.

Reviewed by Bryn D., Teen Board Member on January 29, 2018

Truly Devious
by Maureen Johnson

  • Publication Date: January 16, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Young Adult 13+
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • ISBN-10: 0062338056
  • ISBN-13: 9780062338051