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Monday, September 27, 2010

What I Saw and How I Lied, written by Judy Blundell. Scholastic, 2008. $11.99 ages 14 and up

"I breathed in and out, perfume and smoke, perfume and smoke, and we lay like that for a long time until I heard the seagulls crying, sadder than a funeral, and I knew it was almost morning.

We never went to the hotel dining room now. They knew who we were; they'd seen our pictures in the paper. We knew they'd be saying, Look at them eating toast — how can they be so heartless?

I rode a bike down to the beach instead. In the basket I had a bottle of cream soda and two Baby Ruths. Breakfast."

Evie and her mother have been on their own while Joe, the husband and stepfather, was off fighting in WWII. Evie is longing to be grown up, wearing lipstick and smoking cigarettes. She emulates her mother, a lovely and very glamorous woman, who is overprotective of her only daughter, wanting her to maintain her childlike innocence. All seems to be much the same when Joe returns. But soon after, Evie begins to notice little differences and that things are not exactly as they seem. Joe is drinking more, and getting phone calls that leave him angry.  A family trip is planned and the family ends up in Florida where few people are staying due to the lateness in the year. Evie meets and falls for a young man named Peter. Joe is disturbed by his presence. Joe met him overseas and is very uncomfortable when Peter is around his family. Evie's mother is often gone, apparently on long shopping trips.

Tragedy changes her world in an dramatic turn, and Evie is left to decide how she will protect all of those she loves. How does she make the choice between her mother, her stepfather and Peter? What will she decide? I am always quick to say that I am not a mystery buff, but I loved the feel of this book. It was like a movie playing in my head, and I had visuals of all the characters, their motivations and their behaviors. It is a powerfully told tale of the 1940s, when the war was ended and life was good. The author has created authentic, remarkable characters in a setting that is easy to imagine and with enough twists and turns to be totally absorbing from the first page to the last. The final action is perfect...just right for a 'truth teller'.

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