It is 1947, and the American nation is reverting back to its normal routines and trying to recover from the effects of World War II. For fifteen year-old Evie Spooner, it means the return of her stepfather from army service and back into her life and that of her mother, beautiful Beverly. Despite that, life does not pick up where it left off before the war.
Instead, Evie’s parents are increasingly unhappy and argumentative. Suddenly, Joe sweeps Beverly and Evie away from their home in Queens and into an impulsive trip to Florida, all under the pretense of remedying their deteriorating family life and finding new business opportunities. Although Evie considers herself to be an adult, it is during this “vacation” that she experiences both life and the hard truths of adulthood. Palm Beach is not only where her parents run away to from their troubles but also where Evie meets her first love, Peter Coleridge. A handsome ex-soldier with a hidden past, Peter’s congenial personality and calm demeanor attracts Evie physically and mentally. However, tragedy supplants Evie’s emotional awakening and idyllic romance with sorrow and a horrible reality—the fact that everything she believed to be true is a lie. Her parents’ veracity is at stake, and her love for Peter and her parents is threatened with hatred when all her convictions are harshly put to the test on the witness stand. In a court of law or in a hotel, Evie is thrust into a web of deceit and doubt; only she can decide what she truly believes and to whom her loyalties belong.
What I Saw and How I Lied is more than a bold first-person narrative that recognizes the internal struggles and changing beliefs of a teenage girl like Evie. The storyline strikes the troublesome environment of post-World War II America and explodes society’s prejudice and corruption on every page. For example, the characters of Tom and Arlene Grayson, an elegant couple, are first-hand victims of racial and religious discrimination. What I Saw and How I Lied showcases human deception and secrecy in diverse circumstances. In fact, most of the characters openly display their human weaknesses when confronted with the truths in their lives that they have tried to escape from. Joe may be a business entrepreneur with growing prospects, but under that accomplishment lies a well-hidden theft during his deployment in Austria which provided the foundation for his status as nouveau riche. Joe’s mother participates in the lie, concealing it with bribery and her own hypocrisy. Beverly’s illicit affair further destroys her marriage to Joe, as the extent of her infidelity crushes Evie’s and Joe’s trust.
However, Peter’s personal contribution to both Beverly’s and Joe’s lies shatters Evie’s faith in everyone whom she loved. She comes out from under her mother’s “perfect” image and determines to be her own mature person. She realizes that her own behavior has been according to other people’s standards, not her own. Superseding her adolescence by developing her moral principles, Evie firmly decides to adhere to them without any outside manipulation. Evie must choose her future. She has to decide what she wants to save more—her family or a memory. Her friendships, feelings, and connections are questioned, but her vulnerability and her understanding of love and honesty make her a remarkable main character. With What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell has contrived a shocking, perturbing, and very moving work of historical fiction that will empower any reader, whether young adult or adult, to join Evie in her conclusive vow to never lie again.
Original review: Part 1: Judy Blundell’s young adult novel is very powerful; Part 2: Judy Blundell’s young adult novel is very powerful, Examiner.com