TRULY DEVIOUS is Truly Devious

Lynn: Maureen Johnson sets her latest mystery, Truly Devious (2018), at Ellingham Academy, a unique private school in Vermont where all the students have a “spark.” “If interested,” reads the school literature, “[just] get in touch.”

Ellingham Academy is famous for more than its unique approach to education: It is the site of a famous, unsolved 1936 kidnapping and murder. New pupil Stevie Bell comes to Ellingham intent on solving the decades-old case beginning with an infamous, threatening riddle sent by someone calling themselves Truly Devious.

Truly Devious by Maureen JohnsonAnxiety-prone Stevie settles in and makes friends for the first time with the eccentric mix of students in her residence, among them attractive David, who seems to be keeping secrets. As she pursues the clues all around her, another student dies mysteriously. Is it murder? Is there a connection to the original case? Stevie puts her sleuthing skills to work, but searching her friends’ rooms isn’t the best way to establish strong relationships, so Stevie finds herself estranged from her new pals while struggling to make sense of the tragedy.

Johnson interweaves two narratives, one chronicling the historic case, the other Stevie’s investigation. This skillfully heightens suspense while providing background, clues, and a rich sense of atmosphere. A truly delightful cast of characters adds richness to the story as well as plenty of opportunity for Johnson’s trademark clever dialogue. Stevie is an endearingly flawed heroine who simply cannot help but pursue her curiosity. The steep cliffhanger of an ending has me screaming for the next installment!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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