The Box in the Woods
Author: Marueen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious, #4
Page Count: 400
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Original Publication Date: 2021
Genre(s): Young adult, Mystery, Contemporary
Stevie has just solved the infamous cold case at her high school from 1936, along with a few other murders that happened around her during the investigation. Now she’s back home working a crappy summer job and missing her friends. So when she gets an email from someone who wants to make a podcast about the Box in the Woods murders, she’s more than intrigued. Back in 1978, four camp counselors went into the woods for a good time – none of them came out alive. Stevie and her friends find themselves acting as counselors at the newly named camp in hopes of putting together the clues and solving yet another cold case. But just like at Ellingham Academy, things take a dangerous turn in the present, and Stevie is caught right in the middle.
I am so lucky to have read this book just days before its published. As you most likely know, I am a huge fan of Stevie and the Truly Devious series. As a kid, I adored Nancy Drew mysteries. These books feel like a more mature, contemporary Nancy Drew – and I love it. If Maureen Johnson just keeps writing more books about Stevie getting older and solving more random mysteries, I would not be mad. In fact, I encourage it and hope it happens. I want to see Stevie go to college and solve mysteries while trying to dodge gross frat boys and eat nasty college cafeteria food. The end of the book maaaaaybe hinted at more books to come? I’m seriously hoping for it.
The Box in the Woods claims to be “a stand-alone mystery,” but also it’s noted as being Truly Devious, #4. So which is it???? The latter. It’s not a standalone. You really should read books 1 – 3 before diving into this one. If you don’t, you won’t know anything about Stevie or her friends or all the things she’d been through leading up to this book. You won’t know anything about the Ellingham mysteries. It’d be ridiculous to start on this book. Just read the others – they’re amazing. And The Box in the Woods is no less amazing. Just like the rest of the series, the book is told in third person POV and alternates between the past and the present. In the past, four teenagers are brutally murdered in the woods. In the present, Stevie and her friends are staying in those exact same woods and trying to solve the cold case. Don’t read this at night like I did.
This book is a great extension of the first three books in the series. Books 1 – 3 follow the gang at Ellingham and all that drama. This book acknowledges that past drama but doesn’t focus on it at all. Instead, we get a brand-new mystery to learn about and try to figure out. Though the plot is new, the vibes and overall feel to the novel are not – it is a perfect continuation of the series and characters. I was excited to see if Stevie and David were still a couple and how that relationship would turn out, but I love that their romance (or any romance) isn’t the focal point of the story. It really is just a great YA mystery.
As someone who is very bad at solving mysteries, I was surprised that I easily called the first twist regarding the message and the dolls (you’ll know what I mean when you get there). I think Johnson made that one intentionally easy, though. I mean, it had to be easy if I called it. The rest of the book, though? Absolutely no way I could have called any of that. Yes, it’s a bit of a ridiculous reveal. Like, there’s no way anyone could guess it. But I didn’t mind. Though I love being able to call a twist, I also like being blindsided. I love when Stevie gathers people around her and plays out the big reveal. It’s just so satisfying, whether I ever saw it coming or not. I hope people don’t discredit this book because of the crazy reveal, because I loved it. So shook! What an ending!
Honestly, if you enjoyed the first three books in this series, you’re going to want to pick up this one, too. You’re going to like it. It may not be the Ellingham case, but summer camp murders are just as interesting and you know it. I love Stevie and her friends (yes, even you, David, though not as much), I love Johnson’s writing and the twisted mysteries she comes up with, and I love the overall atmosphere of these books. If you love all these things, too, then you definitely want to read The Box in the Woods. And please join me in begging Maureen Johnson to keep writing these books.
The Box in the Woods is out June 15, so get ready to grab it!