What I Saw and How I Lied

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
What I Saw and How I Lied Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Sophisticated, mature mystery better for older teens.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 16 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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."


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


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."


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


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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 10-year-old Written bymtpleasantmom November 15, 2010
This book was chosen by my daughter's literature circle at school. My daughter is 9, one of the girls in her group is 9 and one is 11 (Montessori mixed ag... Continue reading
Adult Written byladybug2006 December 24, 2009

2 thumbs up!

You have to think about the real picture, the underlines of this story and waht your child sees everyday before you can go off and give horrible reviews about a... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byRoxybabefat March 15, 2013

What I believe....

I believe its a great book for teens and up. It is a little graphic but it goes by quickly. I think its a rather a interesting book and has a good message :)
Teen, 16 years old Written byringtail March 22, 2011

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 mo... Continue reading

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?

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mystery and suspense

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