Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson // Book Review



I cannot express how disappointed I am. In terms of a mystery, character development, and overall structure, I found this book lacking in every sense. It’s not as if I expect there to be a neat conclusion by the end. This isn’t some episodic CSI crime show. However, I would have appreciated some kind of revelation that engages the audience to continue contemplating the puzzle the author is supposed to construct.

Instead, I get nonsense red herrings that is the marker of careless world building. The pieces don’t fit and it’s frustrating that the reason I couldn’t solve the mystery is not because I am less clever but because I am not privy to the same information the protagonist has. That leaves me feeling as if the answer is so obvious that the only device the author thinks to implement is totally omitting crucial details. Or in this case, I didn’t have the satisfaction that you get during an ‘ah-ha’ moment. I just shook my head in confusion not entirely understanding how one piece logically connected to the other.

That leads into the cast of characters. I did not find it necessary to insert David as a romantic interest being that he exists as a convient foil to Stevie. In addition, characters mentioned at the beginning, such as a girl in a wheelchair and another wearing a hijab, are only in passing. Am I expected to again feel satisfied that the diversity quota is met therefore congratulations. Nate and Janelle could have been used more expertly to actually have an active role in the investigation. Yet, they are side stepped in favor of placing attention towards Stevie’s and David’s toxic relationship. How about this as a novel idea, people who initially share attraction have a greater chance of a stable relationship than those who constantly antagonize each other.

That aside, Stevie’s relationship with her parents are realistic in a sense but I think that she isn’t a good daughter either. So, you get what you give. Granted, her parents are traditional but that doesn’t justify Stevie’s attitude. Disagreeing with an older generation is expected but it’s not as if her parents are coercing her to align to their beliefs. They’re for the most part, humoring her, but let’s be real here. She’s not the greatest detective, just super nosy. I think it would have been more entertaining to discover the killer in the second act and attempt to capture them in the third. It took too long for the ‘pieces’ to come together amidst the flashbacks and love troubles.

There were so many aspects of the story that were annoying to me whether intentional or not. I recommend this book to people who don’t like mysteries but really a romance disguised as one with a spunky ‘not like other girls’ protagonist. Token side characters who get probably the ‘I’m only here to be supportive of your goals’ treatment. The anxiety portrayal was…there but I don’t feel like applauding something that should be a part of competent character development. A solid meh.


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I think that the cover was more adventurous than the contents of the book with its hand lettering and asymmetrical orientation. The illustration used an appropriate color palette and it become a tonal backdrop. I also appreciate the text and image interaction as the vines weave in and out alluding to an air of mystery.

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