Title: Truly, Devious
Author: Maureen Johnson
Narrator(s): Kate Rudd
Run Time: 10 hours, 12 minutes
Trigger Warning(s): Murder, loss of a loved one, anxiety and panic attacks (NOTE: If you believe I have failed to include any necessary trigger warnings, please inform me and I will add them)
Summary: 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.
Every once in a while, a book just pleasantly surprises you with how meant for you it seems to be. It’s like biting into an egg, only to discover it’s made of chocolate—and you love chocolate! For me, that book was Truly, Devious. Delightfully creepy yet also wonderfully funny, Truly, Devious shocked me with how much I enjoyed it, especially considering I don’t typically go for mystery/thrillers.
- Ravenclaw Representation! You ever notice how there seems to be a lack of Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs in YA literature? There are plenty of Gryffindors and, recently, a surprising amount of Slytherins, but somehow Ravenclaws and, Hufflepuffs seem to get left behind. Which always surprised me, because as a curious-minded Ravenclaw myself, I always figured Ravenclaw would probably be one of the most adventurous houses, especially as the house of curiosity and discovery. To add insult to injury, most of the few Ravenclaws in YA lit are male. BUT AT LONG LAST I HAVE FOUND A BOOK THAT DEFIES THIS SADDENING TREND! The book being, of course, Truly, Devious. Stevie is delightfully Ravenclaw girl! She’s curious, intelligent, and passionate plus a little zany! Like me! I really related to Stevie and appreciated her Ravenclaw-ness—it gave me all the good feels to see a girl who was allowed to be intelligent and curious! So if you’re looking for good female Ravenclaw representation, this is the book for you!
- Ellingham Academy And Its Students! Let’s take a brief detour to allow me to indulge in some reminiscing about my own past. It was the summer of 2012 and I was 17 when I was admitted to Governor’s School for STEM. What’s that? That’s the summer program my state sends the best and brightest high school students in the state to. There are several Governor’s Schools summer programs—one for the visual and performing arts, one for marine biology, one for agriculture, and one for STEM (which is the one I attended). Attending that program, where we stayed at a college for a month and a half with like-minded students and took a class, went on field trips, and got into any and all kinds of mischief that “smart kids” could, was one of the best experiences of my life. The point of this nostalgic detour being that reading about Ellingham Academy—a school for the gifted—was a special treat for me! And, based on my experience, I can say the Johnson got a school for “gifted teens” so right! She had just the right of mischief and academic and artistic passion, in addition to the right amount of togetherness and friendship and just general weirdness that occurs when you put smart kids in a room together. It was such a delight to read!
- Brilliant Anxiety Representation! Guess what? Stevie may be an amateur detective but she has at least Generalized Anxiety Disorder, if not also Social Anxiety! And—she doesn’t let it stop her! Further, instances of her having panic attacks, taking medication, and doing calming exercises like breathing exercises are explicitly written into the narrative! As someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder myself, I loved that Johnson wrote Stevie in a manner that showed that, while Stevie’s anxiety does massively impact her life, she also isn’t crippled by it or “abnormal” for having to do things a little differently in order to deal with it. I also adored that Stevie’s methods of dealing with her anxiety, like taking medication and doing calming exercises, were normalized and not at all demonized or stigmatized. It was such a lovely experience to see such good anxiety representation and I just appreciated it from the bottom of my heart!
- Murder! Mystery! Mayhem! Humor?! Johnson somehow managed to author a mystery novel which is simultaneously creepy and also hilarious. A lot of this has to do with the fact that Johnson’s plot is solid as a murder mystery plot, but the voices of her characters are so ridiculously funny. I was worried that the mystery might freak me out, and admittedly it was slightly creepy at some points, but it was so perfectly balanced out with humor that it was perfect for me!
- Um? Is it not obvious that the answer is, “absolutely nothing”?! I freaking loved this book!!!
- Have you read Truly, Devious?
- If so, what are your thoughts on it?
- If not, is it on your TBR?