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What I Saw And How I Lied Hardcover – November 1, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—In 1947, 15-year-old Evie, her mother, Bev, and her stepfather, Joe, leave Brooklyn for a vacation in Palm Beach, FL, during the off season. There they meet Arlene and Tom Grayson, who lavish attention on the family and convince Joe to go into the hotel business with them. When Peter, an army acquaintance of Joe's, appears, Evie is smitten by his charm and attention. Her budding interest in romance, while protectively discouraged by her parents, is actually encouraged by Arlene, who helps Evie develop a sense of style. Evie enjoys her outings with Peter and interprets her mother's insinuating presence as protective, when in reality Bev is having an affair with the younger man. Joe's jealous distrust of his wife, established while he was at war in Europe, does not obviate the intimacy between Bev and Peter. Evie's closeness to her mother will not permit her to acknowledge the affair even when it becomes impossible to deny. Meanwhile pervading anti-Semitism sours the hotel deal, and the Graysons are forced out of Palm Beach. When Joe insists on one last boat trip, Peter dies during a storm and Joe is accused of murder. It is during the ensuing hearing that Evie learns that adults, even those closest to her, are not always what they seem. Blundell navigates this multidimensional plotline with unique, well-developed characters and insightful dialogue. Yet it is Evie and her rapidly maturing perception of herself and those around her that carry the story. In many ways she becomes the adult in the group, motivated by truth and justice rather than greed or superficial appearances.—Sue Lloyd, Franklin High School Library, Livonia, MI
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In this sophisticated thriller, 15-year-old Evie grows up quickly when she discovers her adored parents are not the people she thought they were. While on vacation in Palm Beach in 1947, Evie’s parents, Joe and Bev, get involved in a shady business deal with the Graysons, another couple on holiday. Meanwhile, Evie begins a flirtation with Peter, a handsome ex-GI who served with Joe and just happens to be staying at their hotel. Evie soon learns that Peter’s presence is no coincidence and that he threatens to uncover a terrible secret that Joe has kept since the war. Then Bev, Joe, and Peter go boating, but only two of them return. Evie must sort through secrets, lies, and her own grief to find the truth. Using pitch-perfect dialogue and short sentences filled with meaning, Blundell has crafted a suspenseful, historical mystery that not only subtly explores issues of post–WWII racism, sexism, and socioeconomic class, but also realistically captures the headiness of first love and the crushing realization that adults are not all-powerful. Grades 8-12. --Jennifer Hubert
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I really love it when I turn to the last page of a book, and the ending is so thoroughly perfect, but not too perfect. Some questions still remain, retribution is administered, and sometimes there's cake. I think, however, that what makes a Bildungsroman so amazing is when the adolescent protagonist matures, and their view of the world is altered in the most beneficial way possible. This book followed that recipe to the "t" and I love the author for it!
"Truth, justice…I always thought they were absolutes, like God. And Mom. And apple pie. But you could make apple pie from Ritz crackers. You could make cakes without sugar. We learned how to fake things, during the war."
Set in Queens and Palm Beach in 1947, Blundell created a world that was utterly believable and rich, down to the cigarette jingles. I felt like an awkwad, gawky fifteen year-old that hadn't quite grown into my bra and didn't really stick up for my values. That's good character writing. But Evie is also an observer, and the reader's only medium to the sinister events that take place that autumn in '47. Seeing things through her eyes, innocent but questioning, was so accurate and foreboding. I was fully invested from the first page.
I also loved Blundell's gregarious "Acknowledgments" where I learned that David Leviathan was her editor, and listed memoirs and history books about the era that helped her shape the novel. I'd love to read more by her and can't wait to look into the referenced works.
It is entertaining and light. After the first few pages, I thought - oh no - I am not going to like this. It was a book club book.
However, it got better fast. Once I was 20 pages in, I was starting to really enjoy it and then it was a super fast read from there.