I will be the first to admit that Maureen Johnson is a bit hit-or-miss for me as an author. I love, love, love the unfinished Shades of London series (will there ever be a book 4?), but I’ve not read much else of hers. When I first picked up Truly Devious a few months ago, I had trouble getting into it as YA mystery wasn’t exactly on my “yes, let me read this” list. When I found out it was on our summer reading list, well, I was a little bit more enthusiastic. Murder mystery YA? I’ve got this!
In Truly Devious, Johnson seamlessly intertwines a story of time travel, mystery, and amateur detectives to create a very compelling YA mystery. The novel follows Stevie, a budding detective, in her first year at Ellingham Academy as she tries to solve the school’s infamous murders (committed by a letter writer known as Truly Devious — yep, the title of the novel is the murderer’s sign off). Stevie’s attempt to solve the murders sets off a series of events — being friends with a zombie-famous YouTuber, working with her friend on a series about the murders, and yes, stumbling upon a new murder to solve.
What I Loved, Loved, Loved
- I loved the mystery of what happened in the 1930s. I wanted to know who Truly Devious was (until, I think, I figured it out), and I wanted to know if – when – how justice could be served for what happened to Dolores.
- I loved the idea of a school where students were able to play to their strengths and study what interested them, even if it did seem a bit like a pipe dream (are these schools real? Please hire me!).
- I loved that it was set in slightly quirky Vermont, which may as well be a foreign nation to a faux southerner like me.
Honestly though, the characters and plot were very similar to the Shades of London series. Your mileage may vary here, but I definitely almost called Stevie “Rory.” I thought a lot of the school-based, quirkiness of the mystery were similar to boarding school in London, especially the whole “one of us doesn’t belong here” feel that I got about Rory. This isn’t a negative so much as a “meh” feeling. I loved Stevie as a character, but I do prefer Rory, so there’s maybe some bias there.
The cliffhanger was a bit meh. The end “reveal” has little to do with the mystery itself and may be a bit predictable, depending on who you are. The problem / benefit of the cliffhanger means that you have to read the next one, and well, I’m not sure this one was entirely effective on that account. Then again, I had forsworn reading The Vanishing Stair before starting Truly Devious as I (hope I) know better than to read the last book in an unpublished series. I have learned my lesson well, YA authors. Do not tease me.
Let me know your thoughts on Truly Devious below. Are you counting down the days to January, or is it just me?