When the National Book Award finalists for young people’s literature were announced a few weeks ago, there were only two titles on the list that I hadn’t already read and loved — and one of them walked away with the medal. While the turkey was cooking yesterday, I dug into Judy Blundell’s What I Saw and How I Lied, and I found myself nodding, understanding why the NBA Committee loved it so much.
That deliciously dangerous-feeling cover image lives up to its promise when 15-year-old Evelyn Spooner, on a trip to Palm Beach with her mother and step-father, meets Peter, a handsome young soldier who served with her step-father in World War II. He is eight years older. He is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful and absolutely charming. Evelyn is a typical young teen, poised on the edge of the diving board, so ready to be more glamorous that she can taste it, and she falls for Peter in a big way. Anyone who has experienced first love knows the feeling that Blundell captures so beautifully in this novel — that rush of momentum like a train barreling down a track, no matter what stands in the way. What I Saw and How I Lied is written in first person, but even as readers begin to sense trouble, Evie is blissfully oblivious to the train wreck taking shape around her until it transforms the story from a post-war romance to a gut-wrenching mystery and courtroom drama.
Even though this novel is set in the 1940s and plunged me into that world completely, its main character seemed to transcend time, and I really think today’s young readers will to relate to Evie Spooner in a big way. What I Saw and How I Lied feels like the best kind of classic — one that will speak to young readers, especially girls, no matter when they’re facing the challenges of growing up.
Kate’s Holiday Book Review Note: I hope you’re shopping with independent bookstores for the holidays! After all of my holiday season book reviews, I’ll be posting a short note on how each title might fit into your gift list.
Suggested ages: 12+
Buy it for kids who loved: Twilight. Honestly, if you know a kid who only wants to read about vampires, this might be the perfect book to expand her horizons a bit. It’s masterfully written but still has that intense sense of romance and danger that draws so many kids to Stephenie Meyer’s series. Peter is every bit as beautiful as Edward, too…only without the fangs.