What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
Reasons for reading: heard good things about it, winner of the National Book Award for Young Readers for the Book Award Challenge
Description: "When Evie's father returned home from World War II, the family fell back into its normal life pretty quickly. But Joe Spooner brought more back with him than just good war stories. When movie-star handsome Peter Coleridge, a young ex-GI who served in Joe's company in postwar Austria, shows up, Evie is suddenly caught in a complicated web of lies that she only slowly recognizes. She finds herself falling for Peter, ignoring the family secrets that surround him… until he mysteriously drowns. Now Evie must find out what happened…and how far she'll go to protect her family."
First line: The match snapped, then sizzled, and I woke up fast."
My thoughts: I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I think the characterization was almost too good - I really found Evie an annoying teenage girl during the first part, especially when she "fell in love" with Peter (although I guess puppy love does feel very real, I probably shouldn't be such an old person and belittle it). But once she grew up - unfortunately it happens tragically fast, she shouldn't have had to take on so much so soon - she becomes quite fearsomely impressive. Evie becomes strong and the adults - her gorgeous mother who adores her and has always done what she had to do to take care of her and her stepfather Joe, who may not be quite the perfect husband, father and soldier that he seemed - become weak and can't help themselves.
The post-WW II setting was well-researched and I really felt immersed in it. It was also interesting to set it in Florida, it's not a place I associate with that time in history at all, not sure why. And a further historical dimension was added by including the racism against Jews encountered by acquaintances of the Spooners, which is made even more upsetting given what had just happened in Europe.
Overall, I can see why this won the National Book Award. The historical setting was very well done and once it gets rolling, you want to find out what's going to happen to Evie's family.