Truly Devious

Truly Devious

Book - 2018 | First edition
Average Rating:
Rate this:
When Stevie Bell, an amateur detective, begins her first year at a famous private school in Vermont, she sets a plan to solve the cold case involving the kidnapping of the founder's wife and daughter shortly after the school opened.
Ellingham Academy was founded by Albert Ellingham, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym "Truly, Devious." Years later, Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan to solve this cold case. But the past has crawled out of its grave: Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy.-- Adapted from dust jacket.
Publisher: New York, NY : Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780062338051
Characteristics: 420 pages : map ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

When Stevie Bell, an amateur detective, begins her first year at a famous private school in Vermont, she sets a plan to solve the cold case involving the kidnapping of the founder's wife and daughter shortly after the school opened.

List - Best Back to School Reads
PPLTeen Aug 30, 2018

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. "A place," he said, &q... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Mar 28, 2021

Truly Devious takes place in a mysterious private school in Vermont for gifted students. This school was founded by Albert Ellingham with the intention of learning being fun, and being able to pursue individual interests. Shortly after the school’s opening his daughter and wife were kidnapped. Stevie Bell, a mystery and crime enthusiast is about to attend Ellingham Academy and she plans to solve this mystery. Once she arrives, a series of peculiar events begin occurring and the past returns to haunt the school.
I really liked the atmosphere of the book. It was very creepy and puzzling, filling you with doubt until the end. You keep reading not because you want to finish the book but because you want to hold on to every word, trying to find the last piece to the puzzle. She engages the readers with compelling character storylines from the very beginning. I think that Stevie’s anxiety descriptions were very relevant and relatable. It was hard to keep track of the time periods, when it moved from the past to the present. There were also love interests in this book. I thought that one of them didn’t have much of a personality and didn’t bring much to the story. But that's just my opinion. Overall I think that this book was a great mystery and I was hooked till the end. I can’t wait to read the next book!

Barrie_Teen_Lists Mar 24, 2021


“There is nothing so serious as a game.”

Mystery novels within the YA genre are few and far between, but Truly Devious showed the two can coexist in a seamless and entertaining way to keep you on your seats for the entire book.

Truly Devious followed Stephanie “Stevie” Bell, as true crime enthusiast with a passion for the murder of Alice and Iris Ellingham, respectively the wife and daughter of the wealthy Albert Ellingham, gets accepted to Ellingham Academy, the very school Albert Ellingham founded himself in the early 1930s, in respect that she will work of the case of their murder for her final project and finding more about the killer, Truly, Devious, and their mysterious letter about their murder, along with dealing with her new roommates, and the murder of not just Alice and Iris, but also the murder of her roommates, Hayes, creator of a very popular web series and small celebrity, and how that is linked to Truly, Devious themself, and how Steviw investigates these mysteries and how these intertwine to find the identity of Truly, Devious.

This book is for good for anyone apprehensive about the Young Adult genre and if it can be mature or even relatable. In this book, we can see teenagers as capable, intelligent, relatable people with interests and problems with school, despite going to a school that looks to be far out of reach for many of us. While it does all of this, there is an entertaining, chilling mystery around the murder of Stevie’s roommate, Hayes, and how bits and piece sof this mystery weaves together to connect to certain people. It also offers great insight into the past within the school to past students and the time of Albert Ellinghamd and the first strikings of Truly, Devious occured. Anyone interested in the genre of mystery or relatable teenagers would enjoy the thrills of Truly Devious.

Maureen Johnson keeps a brisk, fast pace to keep readers entertained with the mystery and to really sink their teeth into the saga of both Truly, Devious within modern times and the first killings within the 1930s, and wondering how this all connects to each other. The writing moves fast and works with the novel, along with being easy to read and comprehend, as to be interesting but not too much to hurt the brain to maintain a fun, chilling atmosphere.

Truly Devious, in final, is an enjoyable, thrilling, light read for anyone willing to sink their teeth into a much needed mystery series with all the quirks of the Young Adult genre and the chills of the Mystery genre.

Mar 08, 2021

Truly Devious, a captivating murder mystery novel, follows Stevie Bell to Ellingham Academy where she is determined to solve the murders hidden in history. Stevie Bell, our main character, is interested in true crime when she applies to the elite Ellingham Academy on a whim; it was to her surprise when she got accepted. However, moments after she arrives at the stunning campus, she discovers strange instances that make her wonder if this was the right choice. I can say with confidence that Truly Devious is the first 5-star novel I have read this year. It’s an incredibly well-written murder mystery that doesn’t get enough recognition within the realm of young adult writing. The author did an admirable job of creating a thoroughly immersive setting with her generous descriptions, and one of the best parts of mystery novels (if done right) is the setting. It has to be a realistic setting, and Ellingham Academy nailed it.
Stevie’s perspective is the main focus throughout the novel, but there are occasional snippets from interviews. I think those entertainable snippets aided the author in developing the plot and mystery behind the murders. All the characters are delightful in this novel, and I could relate to them. I appreciated the handling of Stevie’s anxiety through the mentions of panic attacks and anxiety medication; it’s so refreshing to see mental health represented through young adult novels. The mystery itself consists of multiple intricate layers, and it is a mystery that continues in the sequels. I often find myself predicting the culprit ahead of time, but I do not have a single clue in this case. The only complaint I have (not a complaint) is the cliffhanger at the end! I can’t wait to see what happens next. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of slow mysteries with exquisite world-building and characters. Fans of A Study In Charlotte will adore this novel for the parallels of strong female characters and exciting plots.

Rating: 5 stars
Age Recommendation: 14+
TW: Mentions of murder, panic attacks (anxiety)

Feb 02, 2021

Thought this was a great book! I read it during a road trip and found myself hooked. Very easy to read, it starts a little slow but it picks up and it gets really good! 10/10 recommend.

Jan 04, 2021

It started a little slow but I loved it! It's a great mystery and the cliffhanger leaves you wanting to pick up the next book. The mystery is well written with alternating chapters between the past and the present. Overall, it's a nice thrilling read!

Oct 19, 2020

If I were to rate this book out of 10, I would rate it 8.5/10. This book was a fun read, but I will say that it took me a while to get into it. Also, be aware that this book is the first of a trilogy so it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger.

Sep 28, 2020

Stevie Bell is accepted to Ellingham Academy, the setting of one of the most famous kidnapping/murder cases in history, and Stevie, who has been obsessed with the case for years, is determined to solve it. The case began in 1936, less than a year after the school's opening, when the wife and daughter of founder Albert Ellingham are kidnapped. His wife and another student are found dead, but his daughter, Alice is never found. Anton Vorachek is arrested and found guilty, but his guilt has always been in doubt because of his lack of English language skills, which would have made it impossible for him to have written the mysterious letter that arrived at the school that was signed "Truly Devious." Because Ellingham only accepts students who are academically gifted or have some unique ability, Stevie hopes that she can live up to expectations, while attempting to solve the case. Stevie agrees to work on an internet film project about the case with several of the students until one of them turns up dead. In addition to the original mystery, Stevie now has another case to solve.
Truly Devious alternates chapters describing the 1936 mystery as well as Stevie's story as she tries to understand her parents, her classmates, and a budding romance. The clues for both mysteries are expertly woven into this story of quirky teenagers who are trying to navigate the world of high school. Authentic dialogue, believable situations, and a twist at the end add depth to this excellent story. Overall, an exceptional young adult coming of age mystery.

Grace Cunningham
Sep 17, 2020

I wasn’t really in love with this book. I like that it mixes past events with current events, the author is very good at writing mystery settings. But I found myself getting bored due to the slow progression of the book. Nothing really suspenseful happened until way later in the book. The ending left me with more questions than answers, and I wasn’t yearning to read the sequel.

pacl_teens Sep 10, 2020

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson is an amazing young adult mystery novel. It follows a young girl, named Stevie Bell, who starts to attend the famous private school, Ellingham Academy. When the academy had originally opened, Ellingham's wife and daughter were kidnapped and the only clue that was left behind was a riddle signed Truly Devious. Stevie came to this academy to solve the case and won’t let anything stop her from getting the answers. But what will happen when murder strikes the academy by surprise? Will Stevie be able to find out who is behind or will she be too late?

This book has so many great aspects about it. First of all, the character diversity in this book was amazing! I feel like everyone will have a character that they will be able to relate to as they read this book. Secondly, it was also interesting to see how this book switched between two time periods: the present day and during the kidnapping. One thing I did not enjoy about this book as much is that Stevie did not solve the case. Instead of solving the case in this book, the author kept giving Stevie more problems that drove away from the main plot, which were not as interesting. This book also ends on a cliffhanger, which is understandable because this will intrigue readers to read the second book.

In short, this book is very easy to read and an interesting mystery book. If you do decide to pick up this book I also recommend grabbing the second one in the series because the cliffhanger will have you at the edge of your seat! -Eunchae, Grade 10

Sep 01, 2020

One of the best YA books that I have read thus far. A total heart stopping page turner. The setting, the characters and the mystery was everything that I could have hoped for. Can't wait to read the next book.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
Mar 28, 2021

SionaM thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Jul 18, 2020

tedwards37 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add Notices
Grace Cunningham
Sep 17, 2020

Other: Make out scenes, lite cussing, eerie setting


Add a Quote

Where do you look for someone that's never really there?
Always on a staircase but never on a stair.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at PPL

To Top