What I Saw and How I Lied

Common Sense Media says

Sophisticated, mature mystery better for older teens.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Can lead to some good discussions about YA verus adult books. See our "What to Talk About" section for some ideas.

Positive messages

This book deals with some heavy themes, including racism against African Americans and Jews. Evie's parents lie, steal, and may have committed murder. Even so, it's a coming-of-age story in which the narrator -- and the readers -- must think about important ideas, such as who deserves loyalty.

Positive role models

This is a coming-of-age story and readers will see Evie grow up and have to live in a more complex world. Evie lies under oath to get her parents acquitted, but as the School Library Journal review notes that "In many ways she becomes the adult in the group, motivated by truth and justice rather than greed or superficial appearances."

Violence

A man is murdered, possibly by the main character's parents, but it's not described.

Sex

A girl has a crush on an older man: they kiss passionately and nearly have sex but are interrupted. The same girl begins to have sex with a boy rather graphically, but she stops him in the middle. Adults have extramarital affairs, some discussion of sex, growing breasts, "screwing."

Language

Some mild swearing: "damn," "son of a bitch."

Consumerism

Cigarette, soda, candy, lotion, liquor, car, and cracker brands mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots and lots of adult smoking, drinking of beer and cocktails, drunkenness.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this National Book Award winner has references to and discussions of adulterous sex, a man almost has sex with a minor, and two minors begin to have sex but don't finish, this last incident described somewhat graphically. Also, all the adults smoke constantly and drink, sometimes to excess, and they lie, cheat, steal, and may get away with murder.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Just after WWII, Evie's stepfather, a just-returned soldier, drives Evie and her mother, Bev, from their home in Queens to Palm Beach, ostensibly for a vacation. There they meet, apparently coincidentally, a handsome young man whom Joe knew in the war, and Evie promptly begins falling in love with him. But she also begins to see that there are layers of secrets surrounding him, Joe, and Bev. And when tragedy occurs, and her parents are put on trial for a terrible crime, Evie has decide what is true, whom to believe, and what to do with that knowledge.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

It can be hard to define the difference between adult and young-adult fiction, and this noir-ish mystery, set in the '40s, certainly skirts the line, wherever that may be. Infused with ambiguous and questionable morality, driven by sexual awakening and relationships, and set in a period with very different values from those that prevail today, adults will find as much to enjoy in this riveting drama as older teens.

Author Judy Blundell, whose previous books are mostly Star Wars novels, here shows a confidence and sure touch when dealing with a very different type of book. The characterizations of both major and secondary characters are clear and vivid, the sense of place and time is palpable, and the mystery, though predictable, is compelling. The postwar era is evoked with a light touch, though the constant smoking by nearly all of the characters, while realistic, gets a bit tedious after a while. Nonetheless, it's an auspicious debut into the world of literary fiction.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what separates a YA novel from an adult novel. This noir-ish mystery, set in the '40s, certainly skirts the line, wherever that may be. Which category would you put it in?

  • Parents can talk about the differing values between the time depicted in the book and now. What parts would be less likely to happen now? What things were normal then and unusual now? Have we advanced or gone backwards since then? Why have these things changed?

Book details

Author:Judy Blundell
Genre:Mystery
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication date:November 1, 2008
Number of pages:284
Publisher's recommended age(s):12
Read aloud:15
Read alone:15

This review of What I Saw and How I Lied was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 16 years old Written byringtail March 22, 2011
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

a good book club book

For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. I love the style Blundell used to compose this novel. The characters are interesting and your thoughts about most of them change as the book progresses. It was very engaging and held my interest up until the last several chapters, which I thought were drawn out too long. The ending was what stopped me from rating this book 4 stars. I wasn’t altogether pleased with the ending, because the reader is left to decide what the truth is behind all the lies and stories. However, some might like this aspect. I would recommend this novel for teens from 13 to 15. There is smoking, but only by adults. Also, there is a little bit of swearing mixed in and two sex scenes. There is discrimination against Jews twice as well.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written bytimmphy do July 2, 2010
AGE
14
QUALITY
 
it was great!!!!!!!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written bycharlie lou September 4, 2009
AGE
12
QUALITY
 
its an okay book. though why is it under 15?

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