Review of Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson

Review: I was not too sure what to expect with this book, I have read some of Maureen Johnson before-13 Little Envelopes, The Last Little Blue Envelope and The Name of The Star. I was excited to read more of her work, even though The Name of The Star was the last book I had read from her, and did not love it all that much and did not finish the rest of the series. But, I had a great excuse for picking up Truly Devious, Johnson was coming to Seattle and to get a ticket I could pre-order the book from the bookstore. Quickly after the book signing, when I got back to my dorm a lot later that night, I had to start reading right away. I was enchanted , enthralled, entrapped, and utterly mesmerized by this book by page one. I don’t know what it was, the clever mystery that I am still trying to figure out. One of the best main characters who is so very much like me, or the best writing I have seen in 2018.

Favorite things– Really loved the dual point of view, the past of when the crime took place and the people who were there and are suspects (or should be) and the present with Stevie Bell  attending school at the academy where the crime took place and trying to figure it out. The technical terms and accuracy were amazing for anxiety and panic attacks. I myself have these and cried at how well it was displayed and written about, something that is one of the hardest things to explain and try and have others to understand (its a reason why I don’t really tell people unless I have to).  The romance that is happening for Stevie Bell is also very fun, and totally hate to love situation (which is one of my favorites). But, the best thing about the romance is that its taking a backseat, well its in the trunk and in no way interfering with the main plot. Back to the dual point of views of the present and the past, for the passages (or chapters) that take place in the past are the moments that are not common knowledge to the official investigation or known to anyone but the people who were in these behind the scenes moments of the past.

The investigation, the main reason for this book is Stevie Bell’s project (and reason for getting into the school) is to solve the murders that took place at the academy in the past. I myself have many notes and clues marked in the book, and am chomping at the bit for the next book in the series (which I now know will be three books, I want to cry I now have a few months till the second book, then a year for the last one.) The things I do have figured out now (but might have to do a reread before I read the second book in January) -someone planned the kidnapping and murder(?)-used Ellie to facilitate it -the letter on the wall/  the first letter, the things written that would happen have not yet, maybe in the next book…

In other news I have now started listening to My Favorite Murder and am obsessed with it (Johnson and everyone at the book signing suggested it). I also need t-shirts with love my favorite quotes on them, along with other things for this book! I’m dying.

Favorite quote(s): I know I have a lot of them, but I felt that sharing them all with you guys was important to my review.


“I wear my lemons when I’m nervous.”


“I was totally in another place. But the second it became something I had to do, something in me broke. It’s like I used to know the way to some magical land and I lost the map. I hate myself.”


“It was like he had just taken her dreams, which had been floating so gently and rising so high this whole day, and with one prick of a pin, popped them, exploded them.”


“Night always brought the worry. Night was hard.”


“The detective had arrived at Ellingham Academy.”


“Did he want to play? Because she would play. No need to be nice, Stevie. Green light.”


“You know, Stevie said, “in a murder mystery, you’d end up dead.”


“People say depression lies. Anxiety is just stupid. It’s unable to tell the difference between things that are actually scary (being buried alive, for example) and things that are not scary at all (being in bed under the covers). It hits all the buttons. Stop. Go. Up. Down. It’s all the same to anxiety.”


“The fact is”, he said, “I liked you from the first moment I saw you, when you looked like you wanted to punch me in the face for just being alive.”


Would I? Reread? YES!!! Recommend to all others? YESSSSSSS.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Edition: Hardcover, 432 pages.

Young Adult. Romance. Thriller. Mystery. Fiction. Contemporary.

Published January 16th 2018 by HarperCollins.


New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

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.

-Summary from

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