Mystery YA Suspense YA Young Adult

The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson Review

It’s always good to be back in the world of Truly Devious. I grew up on Nancy Drew and haven’t been this addicted to a YA detective series since. Main gal Stevie Bell has a little bit of Hercule Poirot, a little bit of Sherlock Holmes, but is entirely and magnificently her own. She’s also utterly relatable (rocky relationship with parents, doesn’t know how she’s going to pay for college) and suffers from anxiety — I laud! the rep.

The Box in the Woods is book four in the Truly Devious series. It’s best (but not a must) to go in having read the original trilogy. And, I mean, why wouldn’t you?! Books one through three are exceptional. But back to Stevie (our main gal) and that box in the woods (the site of an infamous murder).

Stevie is on summer break from Ellingham Academy. She’s stuck back home in Philadelphia with her parents (those of the questionable political views) until a new case (at a summer camp) promises rescue. Two emails and some clever convincing later, she’s off, with best friends Janelle (a veritable crafting genius) and Nate (who’s entered the final stages of writer’s block), to play camp counselor and solve a cold case. A quadruple murder that claimed the lives of four camp counselors in the 70s.

Maureen Johnson has a way of creating not only complex and ridiculously intriguing murder mysteries but characters. Stevie, Janelle, Nate, and David (yes, we get to see more of him, too) are so fleshed out and humanly flawed they feel like people we could know. The pace is a quick clip through the pages, and there’s a real sense of imminent danger. After all, the players in this cold case are still very much alive, and at least one person is willing to stop at nothing to keep a lid (oh, the pun) on the box. This book reminded me of my own days at summer camp — assembling in a ring around the flagpole, the Pledge of Allegiance, PB&Js for lunch … I’ve repressed memories of the shower situation. Such a vibe. And, from start to finish, The Box in the Woods is the perfect summer mystery.


Book: The Box in the Woods
Published: Harper Teen
Pages: 400
Publication Date: June 15th, 2021
Age Range: 13 – 18
Stars: 5/5

Harper Teen kindly sent me a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.

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