Happy Saturday, all!
I know I haven't reviewed much recently; if you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I've devoted a lot of time to politics recently.
However, that doesn't mean I haven't been reading. I recently got my hands on Truly Devious, and loved it. If you want to kick-off 2018 right, you'll preorder Maureen Johnson's latest, which is a creepy, thrilling novel.
Read on for more!
Expected publication: January 16th 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format read: ARC via publisher
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.
The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.
So when I realized Johnson had a new book coming out, I did whatever I could to get my hands on it as soon as it possible. I wasn't disappointed; Truly Devious is a thrilling whodunit mystery, with a hint of creepy supernatural tones mixed in.
Johnson introduces us to Stevie Bell, a true-crime fan who is about to start her first year at Ellingham Academy, an institution that has innovative approaches to teaching. She's determined to solve a decades-old mystery involving the kidnap of school founder Albert Ellingham's wife and daughter, but soon finds that someone (or something?) doesn't want her dredging up the past...
Johnson has an immense talent for world building and crafting interweaving narratives, and it shows in Truly Devious. We're given enough of the backstory of the Ellingham kidnappings to get us hooked, before Johnson switches to modern day, where Stevie is determined to solve the decades-old mystery. Johnson crafts a believable and appreciated backstory for Stevie - even if some of the political references had me sighing, for being inaccurate - and also gives her a diverse cast of classmates and friends, to learn and grow from.
There's a certain symmetry to the following chapters that alternate between the original kidnapping and modern day; both the Ellingham family and Stevie are being asked to contend with a number of unknown factors, especially when a present-day murder connects the two periods even more tightly than Stevie could have anticipated. Though Johnson's pacing is exceptionally slow, it's worth it, as the book builds up to a crescendo that will have you demanding the next book.
My one (weird) issue with Truly Devious and Maureen's books in general - minor spoilers ahead - is a number of her recent female characters seem to have a tendency of showing weird, hasty judgement toward boys. I can think of at least two other books where characters have just randomly hooked up with guys, with little logic or buildup.
While I think teens + hormones => making out => perfectly normal, Johnson's characters sort of just go at it, before Johnson even develops the personality of the boys in question. Stevie abruptly makes out with a newly-acquainted classmate in Truly Devious, and it felt unnecessary. However, this is obviously a personal preference, and not something that takes away from the book.
Relationship quirks aside, Truly Devious is a truly good time. Highly recommend, full stop.
About the author:
Maureen Johnson is the bestselling author of several novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, the Suite Scarlett series, and the Shades of London series. She has also written collaborative works such as Let It Snow with John Green and Lauren Myracle, and The Bane Chronicles with Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. Time magazine has named her one of the top 140 people to follow on Twitter. Maureen lives in New York, and online on Twitter @maureenjohnson or at www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com.