What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell

Finished this little number while ellipticalling at the gym last night. I was looking greatly forward to reading it – it won the National Book Award, and, at the time,I was squarely in a retrolicious, Mad Men State of Mind. Still am, actually, especially since I finally started listening to Revolutionary Road. And what a cover! A little noir-y, with a girl who looks just a little too young for that lipstick…

Evie is just a little too young for lipstick, too young for that dress, and too young to fall in love, or so says her mother. That stuff is for grown-ups, like her mother and Joe, Evie’s stepfather who has just returned from the war. They are in love for sure, and when Joe suggests they get away from Brooklyn for a week, Evie and her mother pack their bags and hop in the car. But Palm Beach isn’t the oasis Evie imagined. It’s off-season, the city is basically deserted, and the only people staying in the hotel are busy with those grown up activities that Evie just isn’t allowed to do. It’s boring. Until Peter checks in.

Peter is a grown-up too, but Evie doesn’t care. Taking cues from the women in her life – her gorgeous mother and the kind guest, Mrs. Grayson – Evie sets out to draw him to her. But she’s too caught up in her schoolgirl romance to notice the grown-ups are up to something too. And that something could be very, very dangerous.

Compared to past National Book Award winners, this book definitely flew under the radar. I’m not sure it lives up to its predecessors – the you’ll-laugh-you’ll-cry charm of The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian, or the completely epic The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. And I’m pretty sure Frankie Landau-Banks got robbed. But What I Saw and How I Lied deserved to be a contender, for sure. I really enjoyed this story.

Evie is caught between childhood (a world that doesn’t tug on her heartstrings or anything) and a womanhood she’s not equipped to handle, and this book is her coming of age tale. Her voice really captures her specific point of view – she’s fascinated by details of adult life, excited to be away from the neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, but she occasionally falls back into the cliches and expectations of her childhood. It lends itself for a mix of apt descriptions and moments of introspection. And the relationships between Evie and her mother and stepfather are so layered and authentic, I wanted to eat them up, I swear. I wanted a whole book about her mother, what she was like as a child, and what Joe did while he was in the war. And the love interest, Peter, is certainly worthy of Evie’s admiration. And of course, the plot. There are twists. There are turns. The story gets more and more noir-ish as the pages turn, and nearing the end I was flipping pages faster than I could read them.

I liked it. I really did. In fact, if you’ve read something like this book, let me know, cause I’m gonna run out and read that one too.

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