Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

I picked this one up because it is nominated for this year's National Book Award.

Evie is 15, busy practicing smoking with chocolate cigarettes with her best friend Gloria, lusting after a boy who is clearly in love with someone else, and just generally being a normal teenage girl in 1947 Queens. When her stepfather surprises her mother and her with a vacation to Florida, it seems fun and exciting. It turns out to be anything but.

From the beginning, you can tell that no one is really who they say they are. Her stepfather and Peter (the hunky war "buddy" that Evie falls hard for) have something shady in their past. The Graysons act suspicious and don't offer much personal information to the group. In short, there is atmosphere as thick as the Florida heat in this book. Glances, quiet conversations, secret notes, clandestine meetings. All clues to what is really going on with her family and the other vacationers at the out of season hotel they are staying at. Evie picks up on the undercurrents, even if it takes her some time to figure out their true meaning.

The author did a bang up job of creating the setting and building atmosphere. The characters all kept their secrets, but they still managed to be multifaceted, fully realized, and incredibly interesting at the same time. Evie figures out much of what has happened, but that doesn't mean she knows the full extent of everyone's participation.

Without giving away some major plot points, I wanted to mention that I really loved how the author tied in post-war profiteering into the story. It was original and a theme that snaked its way into the wider story in unexpected ways.

A big thumbs up.

2 comments:

towerofbooks said...

I've never heard of this book. Thanks for reviewing it. It's now on my to-read list. :)

joanna said...

National Book Award Winner!
http://www.nationalbook.org/