Thursday, December 8, 2011

What I Saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell

Set in post-WWII America this book combines coming of age, a "detective" story, and information about Nazis and the treatment of Jews in the early part of the 20th century.  Evie is not your typical 1940's teen.  Raised in New York city during the depression and through WWII, she hasn't had the easy life that we'd like to think adolescents had.  Her mother is on her second marriage and trying to contend with the results of years of lies and deceptions.

Evie and her parents leave for a "vacation" in Florida at the beginning of the school year.  This leaving is quite sudden and keeps Evie slightly off-kilter. At fifteen, removing Evie from her school and friends is, in itself, emotionally damaging. Things only become more confusing as she and her parents travel south.  In Florida Evie finds herself on the edge of very odd adult behavior.  Through this she has to develop her own set of ethics and find a way to make a way through a series of events that would perplex most of us. 

This book was awarded the 2008 National Book Award for Young Adult Literature.  I think it is deserving of the award and well worth adding to book sets created around the commonly read Diary of Anne Frank.  There are some references to adult sexual behavior that are quite mild and one teen-aged "lust" scene that may offend some readers.  However, the scenes are all important to the plot (not gratuitous) and worth the risk a teacher might incur in recommending the book.  I probably wouldn't choose it as a whole-class read because of some of this content, but I would read sections aloud to encourage students to read it independently.

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