BOOK REPORT for Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson

 

Cover Story: Big Font

BFF Charm: Yay

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Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Talky Talk: Just The Facts, Ma’am

Bonus Factors: Mental Health, Boarding School

Relationship Status: ID Network Buddy

 

Cover Story: Big Font

As far as Big Font covers go, I like this one. The trailing vines make it seem very New England, and although it doesn’t scream “mystery,” it’s compelling enough to pick it up off the shelf.

The Deal:

Stevie Bell is a murder aficionado. Well, not like that—it’s just that she studies crime and wants to be part of the FBI, much to her parents’ dismay. When she gets an invitation to attend Ellingham Academy, a school for particularly dedicated geniuses, it’s because of her obsession with the school’s unsolved kidnapping in 1936. Finally, she’ll be able to see where it happened—and she’s determined to solve the case while she’s at it.

The only problem is that while she’s focused on the kidnapping, a whole new criminal case happens right under her nose.

BFF Charm: Yay

Stevie is my favorite kind of nerd: the kind who is passionate and intense about a subject with very little self-consciousness. Sure, she also has anxiety—more on that later—but when she’s in her element, she’s good at what she does and never apologizes for it. In a school of geniuses, her brand is warm, goofy, and dedicated.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Since this is the first book in the series, there isn’t too much in the way of romance—but there is a cute boy and some kissing, which has potential to become smokin’ hot later. It’s a testament to the book that I was so focused on the rest of the plot that kissing (which is always my favorite part) barely registered. Yes, put your face on his face, very good, but can we get back to the mystery now thank you.

Talky Talk: Just The Facts, Ma’am

Maureen Johnson has a talent for giving her characters a real inner voice, and Stevie is no exception. She feels like a real person, with just the right amount of awkwardness and semi-snide observations to make it interesting.

The other characters are great, too—the supporting cast of fellow geniuses are diverse in many ways, but most notably, their specialties. (There’s even a YouTube star. Oh, kids these days.)

Interspersed with the contemporary story is a retelling of the kidnapping, as well as articles and interviews about the case. It’s a fun device that underscores Stevie’s love of research.

Bonus Factor: Mental Health

Stevie suffers from depression and anxiety, and as a fellow sufferer myself, I loved Johnson’s portrayal. Medication is mentioned, as well as one memorable scene where Stevie goes through a panic attack. It’s thoughtfully done, and her struggle rang true. The anxiety depiction never overwhelms the main plot, but as in real life, it is always there and has very real, sometimes very inconvenient consequences. I loved how Stevie handled herself.

Bonus Factor: Boarding School

I haven’t read a good boarding school novel in a while, and this one hits all the sweet spots: murder! Kidnapping! Hormonal teens stuffed into close quarters! New England! How could you ask for anything more?

Relationship Status: ID Network Buddy

Book, I was excited for our date, and even though you left me with more questions than answers, I have a feeling our next date might help solve some lingering mysteries. You seem like the type of buddy where we could spend all day watching the ID Network and eating junk food—and everybody needs one of those! So when you ask me out again, I’m totally saying yes. Bring your murder podcasts, too, and let’s share our headphones.

Truly Devious is available now.

Jennie Kendrick lives in San Francisco and has an excessive fondness of historical fiction, spreadsheets, turquoise sparkly things, and bourbon. She is also a literary agent with Lupine Grove Creative. When she’s not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she cooks obsessively, runs an Etsy shop, and thrifts for vintage everything.