Last weekend, the Carlys (M. & H.) decided to read What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell. This book follows Evie, a 15-year-old girl living in Queens, NY right after World War II. She lives with her mother, Beverly (who is blonde and beautiful), her stepfather, Joe (who served in the war and now owns several electronics stores), and her stepfather's mother (who insists on being called Grandma Glad — although she's anything but). Evie's life is filled with regular teenage concerns: friends, boys, fashion, and growing up. But everything changes when Joe gets a mysterious phone call. Suddenly, Joe packs up the family for a “vacation” to Palm Beach, and Evie soon finds herself mixed up in a dangerous web of deceit.
So why did we both decide to read this book? Well, What I Saw and How I Lied, for ages 12 and up, just happens to be this year's winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature — just announced last Wednesday! What is the significance of the award, you ask? The National Book Awards date back to the 1950s and were created in order to acknowledge the year's best pieces of literature in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. In 1996, the Award for Young People's Literature was added to this prestigious literary observance.
This year Judy Blundell joined the ranks of great writers such as Jonathan Franzen, Bernard Malamud, and Louis Sachar — beating out Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains, Kathi Appelt's The Underneath, E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and Tim Tharp's The Spectacular Now. In addition to What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell has written many, bestsellers under the pen name Jude Watson (including many Star Wars tie-ins). Among her upcoming projects is Book # 4 in The 39 Clues series.
Here's what we thought of the award-winning book:
Carly H.'s Take:
When I first read the description for this book, I wasn't all that interested. I'll read almost anything, but mysteries — and specifically murder mysteries — fall outside that "almost." And the film noir cover didn't help alleviate my disinterest. But awards tend to imply that a book is worth reading. So I figured I'd give it a go. And I'm glad that I did!
Even as the lies of their “perfect” post-war family start to fall apart, giving way to deceit and mystery, Evie's story kept me intrigued. She flirts with boys and falls in love. She learns to drive. She goes shopping, and I am so in love with the late 40s fashions in the book; Evie borrows her mother's green dress with purple flowers and buys a midnight blue dress to wear with heels. And all the while, she is getting pulled further and further into the tangled lies of her family.
So even though I don't usually like mysteries, I liked this one. Evie is unwittingly pulled into the mess of her unraveling family, but over the course of the book she grows into a person who can pull herself out. And you should read the book to find out how she does it.
Carly M.'s Take:
Being that one of my favorite time periods in US history is from 1945 to1960, I was really excited to read What I Saw and How I How Lied.
I would say that I was a little biased towards this book, as I took in the social and historical accuracies and recalled the “American Dream” often referred to in my history classes. But I'm sure I would still have found it fascinating even without the previous knowledge.
Even if you don't know much about the social aspects of that time, readers today can most certainly relate to Evie. I think you'll be surprised at the similarities between girls today and girls back then. Other than the fashions, transportation, popular culture references, and topical conversations, not that much has changed in the way of what teens want: the desire to be liked by someone else and the need to grow up way too fast. So don't let the historical time period keep you from reading this National Award-winning book!
— The Carlys