The real reason I think Truly Devious doesn’t entirely work for me is that Stevie doesn’t really make any irreversible decisions. At least not ones with meaningful consequences. Meaning, the book doesn’t split easily into 3 acts. Instead, it weakly moves from the beginning to the middle and the end without clear boundaries forcing the characters into a new way of responding to the world. Stevie doesn’t have to leave anything behind in the novel.
She’s in exactly the same place in both the beginning and the end except now she accepts herself more than she did before and she has some clues to solve. She doesn’t conclusively solve any of the crimes established. So, the promise the inciting incident makes are not fulfilled by the conclusion of this book.
Personally, I wanted to know the solution to at least one of the crimes. Instead, I’m left wondering if/how Ellie is guilty, who the couple Stevie found out about in Ellie’s room actually are, and what David’s father has to do with anything whatsoever. No matter that it was predictable, I didn’t get the satisfaction of a solved crime from this novel. Sure, I want to know more and will read the others in the series, but I wouldn’t consider it the end all be all of crime. YA crime, perhaps, but not crime.
Once more, be warned. Spoilers Ahead.
Stevie acclimates to Ellingham Academy and has to decide what project to work on for the year.
Inciting Incident. A student is murdered and Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter are kidnapped for ransom in 1936.
Complication. Stevie Bell has studied the crime and wants to go to the school to solve it. She gets is, but has to learn to fit in.
Crisis. She has to figure out what her yearlong project will be.
Climax. She decides to solve the crime. Her counselor instead asks her to create a project about the people behind crimes to teach her a lesson.
Resolution. She has built her board for the crime and must deal with her classes, life at Ellingham, and figuring out who her friends are.
She decides to film a recreation of the original kidnapping and murders from 1936 with a YouTube star, his worker bees, and her friend Nate, who writes, while also dealing with boys, her anxiety, and a potential new letter from Truly Devious.
Inciting Incident. Hayes asks her to film a series on the Ellingham crimes with him. He has her get Nate to write it.
Complication. Life is proving challenging for Stevie. She has a boy she thinks she likes and has to figure out who her true friends are all while taking difficult classes, trying to piece together more clue about the original crimes, and filming this series. Plus, Hayes goes missing.
Crisis. Should Stevie tell Pix that Hayes showed them how to break into the tunnel or keep it a secret so she doesn’t get in trouble?
Climax. She tells Pix and they go check out the tunnel.
Resolution. Hayes is found in the tunnel dead. It’s thought that he died from CO2 poisoning after putting dry ice in a confined location for a long period of time and breathing it in.
Stevie starts to think that Hayes’s death was actually a murder and sets out to solve it while still looking for clues to the original crime.
Inciting Incident. Stevie decides that Hayes’s death wasn’t an accident.
Complication. The clues point to someone living in Minerva having committed the crime.
Crisis. Does Stevie confront Ellie or leave it be and let the world believe Hayes died in an accident?
Climax. Stevie confronts Ellie via a game and Nate’s quick thinking gets Larry, the security guard involved.
Resolution. Ellie escapes so no one gets to question her about whether or not she was guilty and how she couldn’t have committed the crime. Additionally, we learn that David’s dad is the politician Stevie’s parents work for.