They don't write 'em like they used to

What I Saw and How I Lied - Judy Blundell

Bullet Review:

I'm still pondering over the events of this novel. I'd say it's got a great message and portrays a time period that tends to get sanitized (oh sure, every woman from the 40's was a virgin on her wedding night - right) rather honestly.

Not sure what the rating will be - probably will stick to 4 stars for all the meat and thoughts it's dredged up in me.

Superb work by the author who wrote "Jedi Apprentice". More YA needs to be written like this.

Full Review:

Evie Spooner lives with her mom, Bev, and her step-dad, Joe. After the War, the family reunites, but it isn't easy. One day, Joe comes home to whisk them away to Palm Beach. But in Palm Beach, Evie meets Peter, someone Joe knew. While she starts to develop a crush on Peter, other lies and truths come to the forefront and before she knows it, she's the only one who can keep her family together.

Judy Blundell is quite the prolific writer. She is also known as Jude Watson, who many Star Wars fans may recognize as the brilliant mastermind of the Jedi Apprentice Series, several journals (including the standout, Darth Maul), the Jedi Quest series, and finally the Last of the Jedi series. They were all about middle grade reading levels, and I got more enjoyment from the Jedi Apprentice series than the others, but for Star Wars entertainment, this was some of the best reading enjoyment you could find.

Anyway, Jude Watson impressed me so much, I wanted to read more from her and stumbled upon her real name, Judy Blundell. I think I've been pretty honest that I don't like World War 1 or 2 novels nor am I a fan of anything too "modern" (i.e. McCarthy/Eisenhower, 50's, 60's, you get my drift). However, it was my desire to read Blundell's non-Star Wars work that really drove me to purchase and read this book - even if it took me YEARS after purchasing to read. (Ah, the life of a book hoarder, amirite?)

What I Saw and How I Lied is really a fascinating character study, a mystery of sorts and a coming of age novel. The characters are just so well done, from Evie to her mom to her dad to the Graysons to Peter. I wouldn't say they are all top-notch "likeable" people, but they are flawed. Imperfect. Joe has a temper - but he really does love his wife and daughter and wants to do right by them. (I also think he shows potential signs of PTSD, which made me think of all the men from WWII who came home with PTSD but never got it treated.) Bev has a wandering eye, hates being a housewife - but she LOVES her daughter and would do anything for her. And Evie comes across as naive, but when she needs to grow up, she does so.

There is so much STUFF that happens here. We talk about the continued persecution of the Jews - in the US! We see slut-shaming and victim-blaming in its 40's glory. (Never once glorified though BTW.) I had hazy, summery vibes, reminders of childhood books like The Pink Motel, a book my mom read to me in the summer after 3rd grade, and that I've loved to death ever since.

I think if there is a flaw in this book, it's that it's so full with all these tiddly-bits, I'm not sure how to tie them all up in the end. Ruthie...Mrs. Grayson...Peter...murder...lies...adultery...coming of age.

In some ways, though, I feel the ending of this coming of age novel was more powerful than a similar one I read for book club,A Northern Light. At the end of the day, Evie does something big, something that sacrifices her character for her parents. Is it right? It's hard to say - but one thing that Evie comes away with is that she is her own person, with her own voice, and her own choices, and no longer will she bend and sway to the rhythm of other people.

This was a powerful book, one that definitely stuck with me, but also one I feel you have to be in the "right" mood to read. It's not happy or super uplifting, but it's important and impactful.

Judy Blundell has really showed me that she is a great crafter of words, that she is just as good outside Star Wars as in, that she is better at young adult than middle grade, and that more Young Adult authors need to write like she does - conflicted characters, great stories with touches of realism, and important messages without the feeling of being clubbed over the head. I would definitely pick up another of her books in the future.