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The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

The Box in the Woods (edition 2021)

by Maureen Johnson (Author)

Series: Truly Devious (4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
18411117,899 (4.37)2
Title:The Box in the Woods
Authors:Maureen Johnson (Author)
Info:Katherine Tegen Books (2021), 400 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson


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After solving the Ellingham case, Stevie has gone back to being an anonymous teenager working in her hometown when she is contacted by the owner of Sunny Pines Camp where an unsolved murder
of four camp counselors took place in 1978. Stevie is intrigued by the proposal of a true crime podcast about the murder, known as The Box in the Woods Murders. Stevie agrees to pose as a counselor at the camp along with her friends Janelle and Nate, but David is spending the summer working for a voter registration campaign, which means traveling all over the country and not seeing Stevie at all. Does this mean David doesn't care about her any more? This is just one question that Stevie will be trying to answer this summer.

The Box in the Woods is a good mystery involving the murder of some camp counselors. The first part of the book is told in alternating chapters between the present day problems of Stevie and her friends with the other chapters telling the story of the 1978 murders. This timeline switching ends once the murders have occurred, and it is at this point that the mystery stagnates. The personal lives of Stevie and her friends take center stage while clues and suspects are presented very slowly, making it difficult for the reader to try to solve the mystery along with Stevie. Most of the clues and evidence are presented in the last couple of chapters in the book. Overall, The Box in the Woods introduces an interesting mystery but is plagued with pacing issues and unfortunately is not nearly as good as the first three books in the Truly Devious series. 3 1/2 stars ( )
  ftbooklover | Oct 12, 2021 |
The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson is a great return to Stevie’s world as it allows us to see her branch outside of her boarding school. While Ms. Johnson has fun with Stevie’s love of murder, in this novel she is careful to show Stevie’s growth through her realization that the very same murders she finds so fascinating affect real people and have serious emotional, mental, and even physical consequences on others. Even though it serves as a growth lesson for Stevie, I find it a neat nod to all of those fans of true crime podcasts and stories as it is so easy to lose the human aspect. As for the mystery, I personally never saw the ending coming, but I know others thought it predictable and obvious. Still, I enjoyed the chance to see the friends together again. Plus, I am thoroughly grateful to Ms. Johnson for making The Box in the Woods a true stand-alone novel, mentioning the previous three novels without spoiling a single thing, and providing enough context for newbies to be able to enjoy the story without any previous knowledge of Stevie and her crew. Well done! ( )
  jmchshannon | Sep 1, 2021 |
*I was given an early finalized copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The Box in The Woods is a standalone companion novel to Maureen Johnson's Truly Devious trilogy. The best part is? You can 100% read this without reading the original trilogy first! I know, because I did. Maureen is a fantastic writer who made me feel right at home with these new-to-me characters. Standalones are such a great way to include new readers into a fandom-- they're a great way to 'sample' the characters and world building before diving into the original trilogy! All of the Truly Devious books are certainly on my TBR now!

The book itself is about amateur sleuth Stevie Bell who heads to summer camp at Sunny Pines where four gruesome murders happened back in the 70's. Can she solve this cold-case and prove she's not a one-hit-wonder???

This book is set in Massachusetts and it made me feel both homesick and nostalgic for my childhood (minus the murders). Stevie and her friends have really grown on me and the writting and clues are so well paced. Honestly, I hope Maureen Johnson starts writing more mystery standalone with Stevie (in the vein of a modern Nancy Drew series!) ( )
  Nikki_Sojkowski | Aug 26, 2021 |
Me before reading The Box in the Woods: Do we really need another Truly Devious book…?

Me after reading The Box in the Woods: Okay, Maureen Johnson, where’s book 5!?!?

A special thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Children’s books for allowing me to review this ARC!

The first 3 novels in this series follow the protagonist, Stevie, throughout the course of a year at Ellingham Academy. During that year Stevie works on solving the Ellingham mystery. In The Box in the Woods, however, we see Stevie in a completely different setting, as she is invited to a summer camp where a quadruple murder occurred in 1978. The first three books in this series were good, but felt like they were missing something. After reading The Box in the Woods, I think that something was momentum. The 4th book in this series moved at a quicker pace and definitely kept my attention throughout the entirety of the novel.

First of all, Stevie is as lovable as ever in my opinion. I know she has some oddities, but that makes her all the more likeable to me. Who wants to read about a perfectly confident teen who has all her ducks in a row? No one! The awkwardness and uncertainty of Stevie is endearing and relatable, which made the book that much more compelling.

Similarly, the book goes back and forth between present time and when the murders occurred in 1978. While switching between two time periods can be extremely difficult to write, Maureen Johnson pulled it off flawlessly. In both sections I felt completely immersed in the time period that was being described and the mystery of the box in the woods pulled me in from the outset.

Another aspect of the novel that I have to address is Maureen Johnson’s impeccable ability to describe details. Some authors use minimal description and let readers fill in the blanks and come up with their own picture, but Maureen Johnson does the opposite. The lucidly clear details that Johnson incorporates give such a vivid and consistent image to the reader. The book felt really immersive for this very reason. I could picture the characters and the setting, down to the minute details of the changes in time periods to the changes in the weather. I admire Johnson so much for this talent, because, as a reader it is more meaningful to be able to “see” Stevie throughout the story. Absolutely phenomenal descriptive work in my opinion.

Finally, while reading The Box in the Woods I definitely got some Scooby Doo vibes (and I completely mean this as a complement)! While it was a little cheesy at some points, it felt right. The compulsive need to keep reading and the overall mysterious tone of this book made it an outstanding read. I’m not sure if Maureen Johnson has plans for a 5th book (or maybe even more), but I could see this series continuing on with many more successful books! ( )
  TheBiasedBibliophile | Aug 16, 2021 |
'You can tell a lot about a person from what they read'

Where do I start with this book? Maybe by mentioning that you don't have to read the trilogy to understand this book.

The Box in the Woods is set during the school break from Ellingham Academy and before the kids have to return for their semesters. Stevie is invited to solve a mass murder that happened in the '70s on a camp by its now owner who has named it Sunny Pines. He has his own selfish reasons - to make a podcast on the case.

The best part about the book is that it's a standalone and there is no time utilized to set a premise. We are bombarded with information and our brains start ticking from the get-go.

It is an unputdownable thriller that takes us on an adrenaline-boosting ride. The narration in the book reminded me so much of BuzzFeed unsolved (100 points) and had my heart popping in the final few chapters.

The representation of the LGBTQ community is brilliant. We need more books with narratives like this. The character development isn't a lot since it's only a span of a few months but I did fall in love with Nate, Janelle, and Stevie's friendship more.

Plus the book is set in a camp around a lake that has a TREE-HOUSE LIBRARY. The town of Barlow Corners sounds like a very cozy place for us bookworms to live in. The author did a brilliant job with the descriptions.

Also, the characters are so relatable, it's embarrassing coming from a 24-year-old.😂

'How are you feeling?' David asked
'Everything hurts.' Stevie said, 'Fine'

The only issue I had with the book was that the ending might have felt a little rushed but it was unexpected, nonetheless.

Thank you After-School Tales and Harper Collins India for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review! ( )
  AnrMarri | Aug 3, 2021 |
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The investigator must bear in mind that he has a twofold responsibility - to clear the innocent as well as to expose the guilty. He is seeking only the facts - the Truth in a Nutshell. -Frances Glessner Lee
For Billy Jensen, real-life crime solver
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Sabrina Abbott was doing something *illegal*.
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