Title: Truly Devious
Author: Maureen Johnson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Series: Truly Devious, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
I’ve been a fan of Maureen Johnson’s work since I had the pleasure of reading her debut novel, 13 Little Blue Envelopes. From there, I was a devoted, shameless fangirl. So when I heard that she had a brand new book coming out, the first in a projected series, I was thrilled. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and I couldn’t renew it anymore, so I pushed it to the top of the stack and went for it. Johnson presents a tantalizing, creepy, and humorous series debut that had me guessing until the last moment; I finished it on Saturday and I’m still chewing on it, reeling, wondering if there was something that I missed. Rife with riddles, intrigue, and dark humor, I loved Truly Devious—one of the best books of 2018, hands down, and I can’t wait for the sequels!
Truly Devious opens with a creepy, frightening ransom letter that rhymes, setting the tone for the rest of the novel. In a way, this book is like a two for one; it goes back and forth from 1936 to the present day. Stephanie ‘Stevie’ Bell has been accepted to the prestigious Ellingham Academy, named after the riddle-loving millionaire who opened the school. Drawn to the school for the mysterious double murder that occurred there, she finds a group of friends who accepts her for all her quirks. But when one of her classmates dies in an accident, she finds herself wrapped up in a web of lies, deceit, and intrigue, racing against the clock to stop Truly Devious once again. But it seems that this time it is Stevie herself in the killer’s crosshairs, and some secrets just won’t stay buried…
This book was, in a word, fantastic. I was utterly captivated, and I loved the way Johnson transitioned between 1936 and the present day. The pacing was breakneck; the book grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go, not even after the last killer cliffhanger. The format was part of what drew me in; it went from the present day to various documents from the cold case of the Ellinghams’ murder. I was captivated; I loved the historical angle of that part of the story. I also really liked Stevie, who is a bit of a weirdo with an obsession with true crime (much like yours truly!). She was one of my favorite characters in the book, spunky and smart and so unapologetically herself. The pacing was breakneck, and I was laughing, cheering, and scratching my head; this is one of the best books of 2018, and one of the best mystery-thriller novels I’ve read recently. I was constantly guessing, riveted by the prose, chock full of dark humor and heart. And that ending—oh my goodness, I need the sequel right now! Like, right now. Maureen Johnson, I love you so much, and I can’t wait for more from this new, deliciously creepy series opener! The bottom line: A creepy, riveting murder mystery that goes back and forth between 1936 and the present day, Truly Devious was exciting, feminist, and shocking, and I can’t wait for the next books in the series! I’ll never forget Ellingham Academy, its residents, and its dark history! Next on deck: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi!