Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Title: Truly Devious
(Truly Devious #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: YA Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: January 16, 2018
Murders, Violence, Underage Drinking, Drug Use
Japanese, Black, Middle Eastern,
Wheelchair, Anxiety (Stevie), Queer, Lesbian
(All minor characters, some only mentioned once)

I love mysteries! Especially when the main character channels Sherlock Holmes and other great literary detectives. Thank you so much to the best wifey in the whole world JaNae @ JHeart Loves Books for buddy reading this with me!

I’m still irritated at how it ends though, so I don’t know how good this review is going to be. Sorry.

Stevie (full first name is Stephanie, but don’t call her that) is a murder mystery podcast aficionado. She didn’t think that she would be able to get into Ellingham Academy because there isn’t anything specifically special about her, but she got in. Her goal is to solve the mystery of the Truly Devious murders. She also deals with anxiety and her friends have done a great job at supporting her through her panic attacks.

Stevie Bell had a simple desire: she wanted to be standing over a dead body.

David is a second year student who doesn’t like to discuss anything about him. At first he seems like a jerk because he says some weird stuff to Stevie when they first meet, and honestly I didn’t like him either. Of course, when we finally figure out who he is, the book abruptly ends and that was just annoying.

Janelle is our POC STEM genius that loves to build things. She became friends with Stevie and Nate before they set foot in Ellingham, and she is such a sweetheart. It looks like she is gay, and after breaking up with her girlfriend prior to coming to school, she finds love with a queer character named Vi. They are cute together.

Nate is a published author, whose book came out at 14 years old. He’s trying to work on the sequel right now, but apparently when he’s supposed to be doing something, he does everything BUT that something. So if you tell him to do something else, he’ll be able to write like he’s being chased by the Gods. It’s amazing, really. He’s also pretty antisocial, but still cares about Janelle and Stevie as friends, and has put himself into awkward situations to help Stevie realize that he does care. It was very sweet of him.

Ellie is… interesting. She has no care in the world about her appearance or what others think of her. It’s pretty cool, actually but then there are times I don’t understand what she’s talking about. Just means I don’t understand her train of thought. Doesn’t mean she’s not understandable. Maybe you will.

Hayes is a YouTube star because he did this zombie apocalypse type of show that went viral. But as Stevie can see, he’s a user. And it looks like he knows it too.

Schools may be famous for many thing: academics, graduates, sports teams. They are not supposed to be famous for murders.

Back in the 1930s, a young student named Dottie Epstein was murdered by a killer that went by Truly Devious. This took place at the Ellingham Academy, named after the creator of the school that wanted to create a new learning experience for gifted students. Things went wrong after that first murder, and the Ellingham wife and daughter were kidnapped.

In present time, Stevie has been accepted to Ellingham Academy, and it looks like Truly Devious is back to settle old scores. Can Stevie figure out this mystery that the officials weren’t able to solve back then? What about the new mystery that happens almost halfway through the book? Can she solve that one with her deductive reasoning skills?

Dun dun dun.

I personally love the friendship between Stevie, Janelle and Nate. I’m glad that they were able to get to know each other before going to Ellingham together and how they were able to deal with each other’s personality quirks while not trying to change each other.

“Do you do hugs?” Janelle said. “Not really,” Nate replied, moving back. “Then no hug it is,” Janelle said.

Consent is always sexy

I seem to have a thing for murder mysteries, and how Stevie channeled her inner Sherlock Holmes to make deductions on what she was seeing. I like that she didn’t allow others to ridicule her for her passions – although sometimes her anxiety would make her question a lot of things. I loved that her friends stood by her as much as possible. I love the concept of Ellingham Academy. The premise of the book was great.

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).

There was no consent between David and Stevie when they kissed. Reading it, it looked like Stevie was into it, but there was no verbal or nonverbal consent, and that’s always something that bothers me. I didn’t save the quote but both times that they ended up kissing, it was one sided until the other person got into it. Also, Stevie never really liked David to begin with, so why make out with him? Although, I know you can’t really help who you are attracted to, but I just didn’t believe it.

Also, when Stevie was asking Janelle if she liked Vi, Janelle made sure to clarify that Vi identified as “them”. Stevie apologized and applied the correct pronoun right after that. However, whenever Vi was mentioned again in the narration, they were referenced as “she” instead of “they”. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, or if Stevie ended up forgetting, but I felt like if Janelle already established the correct pronoun for Vi, it should have been consistent even through the narration.

Also the ending. I hated the ending because what the heck. I need to know what the heck is going to happen.

I think I need to request the second book in about a month or so, or maybe even in December since the third one isn’t even coming out until 2020. That ending just really made me angry. Not completely in a bad way, but I felt like there was a lot of build up and we didn’t get much out of it? I’m still going to read the sequel though because I’m completely invested in this and I want to know what the heck happened to [REDACTED] but I’m just still salty about the ending.

21 thoughts on “Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

  1. I haven’t read any of Maureen Johnson’s work since Name of the Star (where I’ve been waiting for the the last book for years now), but I have this on my TBR. The only thing I have heard about it that there is anxiety rep, but nothing else. I should go pick it up soon, or before the third book gets released if I really don’t want to wait that long.

    I really liked that quote at the end where depression lies, and anxiety is unable to tell the difference between what is scary and what is not. That quote is awesome, and I liked that. Wonderful review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I haven’t read that one! This was the first Johnson book that I’ve read and I’m kind of glad I did. I liked the storyline for sure. I just did NOT like the ending LOL. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the novel though, so that’s good 🙂

      Yes, Stevie the main character has anxiety and she deals with it throughout the novel. Some of her inner thoughts actually reminded me of my own, so it was nice to see a character go through some similar thoughts as me.

      That was one of my favorite quotes too. I just had to make sure I included it so I could remember ❤ Thanks so much, Lori!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review, Leelynn! I was going to try reading this while I was in my book slump but thought better of it. I just picked it up today and I’m hoping to start it tonight, but after reading your review I’m wondering whether to put it off again now? The fact that the ending was so ???? has me feeling a little worried 😅 Cliffhanger endings are the worst and if I speed through this and the second book, only to face ANOTHER killer cliffhanger? It’s not gonna be good. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL see I’m glad I mentioned the ending because I think if I had known that the ending was going to leave me unsatisfied (meaning no outcome really), I would have waited until 2020 to read all three eventually lol. It’s a good book, don’t get me wrong. I just feel like you may be wanting more and then having to wait until January 2020 may make it less desirable in the end? I don’t even know if I said that correctly lol.


  3. Great review! I thought the ending was definitely a wow factor and made me pick up the second book right away. I am so excited to see what happens in the third book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joanna! See, I have a problem with finishing series, and I don’t even know if I’ll end up reading the third one when it comes out, so I can’t read the second one yet. It was good though! I want to know what happens next especially because I need to know what happens to certain people from the first one lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ugh, I’m so obsessed with your graphics and they are making me want to play around with my own to come up with a new look! But, besides that, this is such a great review! I’ve been wanting to read it but honestly my knowledge on it has been so limited so I’m so glad that you wrote this so that now I know what I’m getting into. Murder mysteries are basically my favorite. I wanted to add too that I agree 100% about the pronouns of Vi. It sounds like it may have been a slip up in the writing & editing, but to have written a character who uses they/them pronouns and not respect them as the author is a poor mistake in my opinion. I’m glad you pointed it out!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Brittany! Seriously, you have no idea how much that means to me because I keep saying that I am so not artsy or graphically inclined at all but I’m so proud of what I’ve been able to create with Canva! Seriously, a lifesaver for someone like me that isn’t a Photoshop pro or can’t draw to save my life.

      That was me too. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I know that people liked it. I’m glad I did a buddy read for this one so it gave me an excuse to read it a little earlier.

      Thank you!! I didn’t really see anyone mention that, and I’m hoping that it was a typo or an editing mistake that wasn’t caught, but I hope that if Vi is in the sequel (which I think they are, I don’t see why they wouldn’t be as of that ending), that it was fixed, you know?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome!! I think you are far more artsy/graphically inclined than you give yourself credit for! I think your new graphics are so cute and pretty and go so well with your aesthetic! I love them!!

        I’m wondering if maybe the mixup with the pronouns was an editing mistake in the first round of printing and was maybe fixed in future ones? I know that after publishers get to a certain stage in the process, it’s too late to make changes before the first round of prints but that they can try to fix the mistake before sending off for another round. I hope that’s the case!!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review! The ending of this one pissed me off – I hate cliffhangers and that stands out as one of the rudest ones in my mind lol. WE LEARN NOTHING.

    I will tell you the second book does provide some answers but more questions, so at least there is a sense of closure in that regard. But I found it largely fluff middle-book that dragged; I think the series would have been better as a standalone or duology.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG Kal you literally took the words out of my mouth. WE LEARNED NOTHING AND I FELT SO IRRITATED! Like, okay all that build up and I’m still left with a bunch of questions?!

      Ugh okay that’s interesting. I think a duology would have worked better if you’re saying the middle book was more fluffy and dragged on. I won’t be reading it until closer to when the third one comes out so I’m not left upset haha.


  6. I’m going to be honest – I was really excited about this title, because of all the awesome things I’ve heard, but when I learnt that it ends on a cliffhanger I was instantly turned off. I hate cliffhangers in fantasy series, even though I can see why they might be necessary there, but in a mystery? No, thank you. (And then I heard meh things about the second book, too, so that sucks.) But I do hope you’ll love the rest of the series if/when you request the second book. Great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hahaha yes! See I think that if I had paid attention and saw that it ended in a cliffhanger before I started reading it, then maybe I would have waited until the third book came out. However! I will say that I did still really enjoy it, and I am curious to see what ends up happening. I just want Stevie to solve the damn mystery! lol.

      I have heard too that the second book is a filler. Which kind of sucks but I guess sometimes that happens. It’s like the second book syndrome or something?

      Liked by 1 person

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