Definitely a page turner! An interesting take on WWII and the treatment of Jews. There are too many references to sex for my Catholic school library to include this, but high school students and adults would really enjoy it.
I am normally not the one to pick up young adult literature, but What I Saw peaked my interest since it was such a departure from Judy Blundell's famous series. (She penned the Star Wars books under her pen name, Jude Watson)
It is hard to sum up What I Saw without giving away the whole book, but here is a purposely vague outline. Set in 1947, What I Saw is narrated by Evie Spooner, an awkward 15-year old, living with her mother, Beverly, and recently-returned-from-war stepfather, Joe. Joe Spooner is a soldier turned businessman who married Beverly despite his mother's advice; Beverly Spooner was only too happy to find some stability after raising Evie on her own. As for Evie, she languishes in the shade of her mother's gorgeous looks, and yearns to grow up despite Beverly's attempts to keep her as a child for as long as possible. Am impromptu trip to Florida seems like the ideal family vacation, until unexpected events disrupt their lives and change them forever. Hidden discontents are brought to light, secrets uncovered, betrayals recognized and Evie is propelled into adulthood by the lies around her.
What surprised me about What I Saw was how much meaning Judy Blundell was able to pack into this quick read. She masterfully created the 1940's setting - from the prejudices and the notions about the right vs wrong behavior, to the full-skirted dresses cinched at the waist. Blundell also excelled at getting across Evie's longing - for love, for acceptance, for being treated as an equal - and her strong resolve when her world comes crashing around her. And of course, it's the suspense that kept me reading into the wee hours of the night. Each sentence felt like a glimpse of the final outcome, but not quiet, and kept me wondering how the story would turn out.
After her stepfather Joe returns home from serving in the Second World War, 15-year-old Evie Spooner believes that things can now return to normal. No more rationing, no more faking, no more worrying with her beautiful mother Bev if he will be in a particular battle on a particular day.
However, things from Joe's war past seem to come back to haunt him, and he spontaneously moves his family down to a hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. There they befriend the Graysons, a wealthy-looking couple, and Peter Coleridge, a handsome young man who knew Joe from the war. Joe doesn't seem to like Peter, and Evie can't figure out why. She certainly likes him very much, as they go out to town together with Bev and occasionally have romantic encounters.
But something is seriously wrong with this group. Lies, betrayals, and hatred arise, culminating in a devastating event that forces Evie to choose whether to be loyal to her parents or be just. Bev can't hide Evie behind a makeup-less face and childish dresses anymore; it's time for Evie to grow up and face the complex adult world.
Judy Blundell packs so much into this small but giant book. Issues regarding anti-Semitism, family loyalty, love, growing up, and lying all come up, among others. While I thought Evie seemed over-the-top naive sometimes with relationship tensions that are obvious to readers, Blundell does a fantastic job of making her grow up through the book. WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED is by no means perfect, but it's a good read if you're looking for a historical suspense coming-of-age story.