Thursday, November 29, 2018

Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson-- The Mystery With No Pay-Off

Truly, Devious

True-crime buff, Stevie, is admitted to Ellingham Academy-- an exclusive private school in the mountains of Vermont.  It was founded by an eccentric man who wanted to give people a place to learn without financial or educational boundaries.

Stevie's purpose for going to Ellingham is to solve the decade's old case of what happened to Ellingham's daughter and wife.  The kidnapper who calls him/herself Truly Devious left a cryptic riddle and no one has been able to figure out what it means.

After Stevie settles in, Truly Devious makes reappearance and murder seems like it might be back at Ellingham.

This was supposed to be a 5-star book for me.  It had all the makings-- alternate timelines, dual mysteries, a boarding school, and a girl from Pittsburgh-- it's all there!!  Oh yes, I went into this book wanting to love it, but as the book went on, I realized it wasn't going to quite hit the mark.

Stevie gets accepted to an exclusive boarding school in the wilderness of Vermont where no one pays tuition, expense is not spared, and everyone is studying their own interests.  Stevie happens to be interested in the school itself-- she was accepted on an essay explaining her love for solving crimes and her particular interest in a murder/kidnapping that happened at the school 80 years ago.

It perplexed me why this school would want someone like Stevie in there poking around.  It would be like a celebrity hiring the president of their fan club to be their personal assistant.  How could you trust them not to be like taking your used tissues and selling them on Ebay??  Stevie was a superfan of this place and it felt kind of icky that she was there.

I put that aside though because the historical mystery was interesting.  There's a riddle involved and an intricate cast of potential suspects.  The present-day mystery wasn't as thrilling.  Someone dies and it's basically just treated as an accident for most of the book.

What made me feel MEH about this book was the ending.  The book is 400+ pages long and there are zero conclusions.  Yes, I know that series generally end in cliffhangers, but I expected at least part of one of the mysteries to be cleared up.  We were just left with so many more questions and I felt a little cheated.

The second thing that turned me off throughout the book was the virtue signaling.  If an author wants to be inclusive with their work, great-- but do the work.  I felt like this was just throwing out ethnicities and disabilities and sexualities, but not including those people in any real way.  I felt like this author just wanted her ally-cookies-- and whatever dude.

The whole storyline with the parents also bugged me.  Stevie's parents are campaign volunteers for a politician that Stevie doesn't like-- and okay, that's cool.  But honestly, she acted like her parents were the anti-christ when all I saw of them was:

A. they allowed her to go to this school which clearly did not align with their exact views so that she could follow her dreams.
B. they immediately came to check on her and were extremely worried when they found out about the student death.

Wow, they sound TERRIBLE.  Or actually not.  Stop putting politics in these YA books, it's gross.

I might read the second book-- but basically just because I want to know what happened 80 years ago.  I mean, I read 400 pages to find SOMETHING out, and I got nothing....

OVERALL: Had potential, but didn't quite get there for me.  If I read a 400+ page YA Mystery, I want some sort of pay-off, even if it is a series.  The ending and the obvious virtue signaling squashed what was originally an interesting book with a cool historical mystery.

Date Published: 1/16/2018
How I got this book: Library
Publisher: HarperCollins

Add it to my To-Read List!!

My Rating: 2.5/5

Character: Stevie Bell
Book: All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

  • Stevie would probably figure out most book mysteries, but this one has a timeline that goes backward from the end to the beginning and would probably be able to hold her interest.


  1. I so hate when I think I will love a book and I don't. Super disappointing!

  2. My heart is aching right now. I really loved this book, though I do understand what you are saying about the payoff. I do like when series have some story arc that concludes at the end of the book and one that carries through the series, but I enjoyed the journey

    1. We usually agree on books!! I did enjoy many parts of this book, I guess I just got really mad when it felt very BLAH at the end. It was building towards something (I thought) and it didn't get to that something.

  3. That's so disappointing! The older mystery sounds fascinating. I do agree, though - why would the school want someone like her? Did they really think she would be the one to solve the mystery? I mean, I guess she eventually does, but still.

    1. I really didn't understand the school's logic. I guess it's something that the reader just has to go with even though it was NEVER happen IRL.

  4. Sorry that this is a letdown for you. 400+ pages of setup with no payoff is infuriating.

  5. I was unfortunately pretty let down by this one too! I was soooo excited initially because I loved the mystery/true crime premise, but I couldn't stand Stevie and I felt like the author was trying to hard to make the characters quirky which was strange to me because I've read other books by her and really adored them. Like you, I might pick up the sequel to see what happens but I'm honestly so not invested at this point!