In Judy Blundell's What I Saw and How I Lied, a teenage girl, Evie, tells her story in a compelling voice that leads the reader through events in the past year of her life. This coming-of-age work takes place in 1947 and is set in post-World War II America. It is a plot-driven mystery filled with twists and turns. From the beginning, the reader knows something unfortunate has happened to Evie but is not quite sure what has occurred.
The novel begins with the narrator and her mother, Beverly, alone in a hotel room in Palm Beach, afraid to go out because people might recognize them because of the newspaper headlines. Evie is lying awake on the bed beside her mother, pretending to be asleep but highly attuned to her mother’s actions as well as her perfume and cigarette smoke. After she wakes up, Evie grabs a couple candy bars and a soda and rides her bike to the ocean to think about what has happened to her in the past year. She wonders how she could have seen the signs and how she could have prevented it from happening. However, the reader does not know the nature of the terrible events until much later in the novel. The rest of the story is about the events that lead to this point.
Evie recalls that it all started the day before her stepfather took the family to Florida on a vacation. She was living her life as usual in Queens as a young teenager, practicing smoking with candy cigarettes and talking about boys with her friend Margie. However, unlike her friends, Evie has no father present in her life and she feels the lack of it.
Evie’s home situation is full of conflict. Her mother and grandmother frequently fight. Evie spends a lot of time watching her mother, trying to figure out what it means to be a woman. However, she is left alone much of the time because her mother works. Her stepfather, Joe, is in the army. Evie and her mother see other soldiers returning home and patiently wait for Joe to return from the war. He does not come back until one year after the war ends.
Joe suddenly comes home and surprises them with gifts. He also has a lot of money, which he claims he received from a GI loan. With the cash, he opens up some appliance stores. They are doing well financially, but Joe is unhappy and often drinks. Evie notices that Joe is acting differently, but she thinks it is because of the war, which he refuses to talk about. Out of the blue, Joe decides to take them to Palm Beach, Florida. It is December and there are few people at the hotel in Palm Beach, but they meet Mr. and Mrs. Grayson, with whom they socialize. Evie meets a boy, Wally, at the hotel but does not like him because he is her age, which she considers too young. Evie thinks she is more mature than she really is, so she is attracted to men.
In the pool area outside of the hotel, she meets Peter Coleridge. She likes him immediately because he is older and she is looking for a romantic relationship. In addition, Peter treats her as if she is an adult. Evie likes that. He dances with her by the pool. This is a critical point in the novel because after meeting Peter, Evie quickly becomes infatuated and all she can do is think of him while many events are unraveling around her that she cannot see. The next morning, she sees Peter at the hotel and they have breakfast. Her parents walk in and she introduces them to Peter, but he already knows her father. They served in the war together. Joe does not like Peter, but Evie does not know why. She assumes it is because Peter is much older than she is and her father disapproves.
Evie is very perceptive and realizes there is an unresolved problem between Joe and Peter but does not quite understand it. At the hotel, Joe becomes close with Mr. Grayson and spends more and more time with him. Finally, Joe is persuaded by Mr. Grayson to make an...
(The entire section is 1552 words.)