Can it be January 2019 NOW? I need the second book in the series in my possession! I have it on pre-order, but I am giddy with anticipation!
Truly, Devious (people keep typing this without the comma, and it is bothering me more than it should!) is the first book I picked up after completing my thesis. I needed something easier than feminist film theory, so I thought YA was the way to go. No. Regrets.
The novel is everything a page-turner mystery needs to be. It centers on an interestingly complex character, Stevie Bell, a teen true crime fan who finds herself at a weird private school in Vermont where students learn what and how they want. This is of particular interest to Stevie because Ellingham Academy has a checkered history of kidnappings and murders and creepy, pseudonymous letters she wants to crack. The novel makes use of dual timelines, those of Stevie and the 1930s kidnappings, and this device puts a reader on the sleuthing path immediately. There are riddles and danger and, perhaps, love to keep things rolling. Stevie’s anxiety is portrayed in a way with which I can relate, and the characters felt like they could walk into my classroom at any moment.
As I sat down to write this entry, I read some other reviews around the web. Yes, folks, there is a cliffhanger. With all due respect, that is how serial books work. Also, I think it is far too early in the story to leap to judgments about how integral that cliffhanger is to the central plot. I tend to give a writer that kind of credit until it is squandered. Johnson hasn't done me wrong yet. Mystery series require a bit of trust from a reader, as well as a willingness to relax and enjoy the ride. Truly, Devious is a solid first novel for a series, but a reader does have to trust the series a bit.
I am about to make what is likely an odd comparison, but it is based on my reaction, not Johnson’s style. Margaret Atwood has a certain quirk to her word choice and style that makes me giggle at her wit - not her use of humor. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods had a similar effect. Johnson’s witty phraseology and unexpected moments yielded the same giggles from me. I like to be surprised, even in small ways, and Truly, Devious contained some delightful bite-sized morsels of such wit.
I love mysteries, and this one was a great re-entry into leisure reading. Seriously, I may make a countdown timer to January.