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Review of Truly Devious

Truly Devious
by Maureen Johnson
High School    Tegen/HarperCollins    418 pp.    g
1/18    978-0-06-233805-1    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-233807-5    $9.99

Aspiring sleuth Stevie Bell has just started her junior year at Ellingham Academy — an artsy Vermont enclave for offbeat students founded in the 1930s by eccentric philanthropist Albert Ellingham — when disaster strikes. One of her new classmates dies under mysterious circumstances in one of the campus’s hidden tunnels. The event uncannily evokes a tragedy that took place eighty years earlier when Ellingham’s wife and daughter disappeared. While the bodies of his wife and of an unlucky student were discovered later, his daughter was never found. The only clue is a cryptic riddle signed “Truly, Devious.” Stevie, an armchair expert in the Ellingham murder, now has two cases to crack. But she’s distracted from her mission by her ongoing battle with clinical anxiety and a blossoming attraction to her brooding housemate David, who just may be hiding secrets of his own. Told in alternating chapters that chronicle both Ellingham’s past ordeal and Stevie’s current detecting, Johnson’s finely tuned plot effectively employs classical mystery tropes while maintaining a thoroughly modern sensibility. Stevie’s quirky, ragtag bunch of new friends crosses sexuality and class lines, providing teen readers with a wealth of characters to connect with. And if the pacing is a bit leisurely, it’s only because Johnson is setting the stage for a planned trilogy.

From the January/February 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Jennifer Hubert Swan

Jennifer Hubert Swan is director of library services and middle school librarian at Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City. She is also a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information, where she teaches youth literature and library programming. She blogs at Reading Rants.

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