REVIEW: “The Vanishing Stair” is a truly fantastic read


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Samantha Dickerson, Lifestyles Editor

After waiting patiently for the second installment of the “Truly Devious” series, “The Vanishing Stair” was finally released, and it did not disappoint. The second installment of this series was so much better than the first one. There were no parts of this books that were disappointing. The character arcs, plot twists, and attention to detail in this book made it one of the best young adult series of this and last year.

“The Vanishing Stair,” and its predecessor “Truly Devious,” were a series of murder/mystery/young adult books written by Maureen Johnson. The book picks up where the first left off. Stevie Bell, a determined, intelligent, and aspiring FBI agent was entangled in the murder of one of her classmates at the infamous and world renowned Ellingham Academy. Her love interest, David Eastman, had been lying to her, and her most hated enemy, Edward King, happens to be his father.

Being quick to act, Stevie is taken out of the school by her parents and is bored to death with her lifestyle in her stuffy town. Ironically, King is the one who talks her parents into her return. She learns from him that David has begun to act out in class again, and therefore he threatens her with a contingency of being allowed back to school. If she gets to stay at Ellingham, his son must behave and never know of their deal.

Bell comes back, and for a while, everything is fine. Everything is fine until she and David find Element “Ellie” Walker dead in one of the many tunnels that line the grounds of Ellingham.

The direction of this book is about as calculated as the most current set of murders. Every monologue, every detail of scenery, is a piece Johnson uses in her arsenal. She brings back every small point and ties them eloquently together. Even the weirdest details, like her newest character Mudge, who is a mix of death metal and Disney World, makes perfect sense when the plot inches towards the end.

Crafting this story around a series was the best format that Johnson could have chosen. The level of emotional attachment that a person gains for these characters is astonishing. The first book only gets you acquainted with the characters, whereas the second makes you fall in love. After Ellie is found dead in the story, it is heartbreaking. When David cries, the reader cries. All of the main characters are finally honest with each other and it is refreshing to a certain point.

The characteristics of the heroine, Stevie, are illuminated in this book. Her weaknesses are exploited by her enemies, but her strengths make her a formidable opponent as well. In many parts of this book, her courage is subtle but admirable. The way she fights back against injustices in the world, as well as the way she follows her gut instincts, are what many young adults need to see as a role model in paperback.

Politics and extravagance are also questioned quite frequently in this book, keeping it on trend with the unrest our real world sits in now. Edward King’s questionable political policies and treatment of his son foil Stevie’s honest and direct personality, making him a great example of what not to aspire towards. He is secretive and manipulative. He never shows concern for his son, only worry for his campaign.

Stevie is so in-tune with her surroundings that she frequently makes connections between the wealth behind Ellingham and the evil it promotes. The fact that everything beautiful and expensive has a secret or a lie hidden in it reflects how she feels towards the students and faculty that put their wealth on display. They all have secrets they can force away just by paying.

With all the cover-ups Stevie has to sift through, readers are still left with anticipation and questions.

In the first storyline, there have been five deaths. This begs a question for the third book, will any more students or adults die in the current storyline? Will this book follow a murder/mystery trend and keep the numbers even? Unfortunately, the third book is not yet out on pre-order, but if anyone has yet to read the first or second installments, they are listed below.