Publishing Info: November 1, 2009 by Scholastic Inc.
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: April 5, 2014
Murder and intrigue surround a girl in this mystery set in American in the aftermath of WWII
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 secrets that surround him . . . until a tragedy occurs that shatters her family and breaks her life in two.
I’m always looking for more YA mysteries so when I stumbled upon WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED, I was curious about this post-WWII mystery/thriller-type read. It had been on my list for quite a while before I finally got around to it, noticing my library had an audiobook available. The audio went by pretty quickly but… it also seemed to drag on forever.
WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED is the story of 15-year-old Evie Spooner. She lives with her mother and her step-father Joe and when Joe comes back home from the war, the family takes an impromptu vacation, leaving from New York to head down to Palm Beach, Florida. What happens there changes the lives of everyone in Evie’s family as mystery, hijinks, and good old fashioned backstabbing occurs.
I was excited for the mystery aspect of this book, but I wished it had been introduced MUCH MUCH earlier. It wasn’t until about 55% of the way though — over halfway!! — that I felt like things were finally starting to take shape and the whole mystery of the book was evolving. The whole first half was essentially all about Evie — her friendships, her relationship with her mother and her step-father, and her new giant crush on ex-GI Peter Coleridge. It was really hard to listen to Evie’s narration for the whole first half of the book without this mystery present because Evie came across as very naïve to me. She’s only fifteen, sure, but she feels even younger and her puppy-love crush on Peter was just so unbearable to listen to. I felt so embarrassed for her (oh yeah, he was 23, by the way) so the whole book just felt really young.
As stated previously, I wanted soooo much more from the mystery-aspect of the story. I think if those little hints at conflict were introduced earlier in the book, I might have been more interested and more inclined to focus on that instead of how much I was not enjoying listening to Evie. Once the mystery finally did start to unravel, I felt like things were revealed much too quickly and easily and then things took a turn for the worst. Everything got extremely melodramatic for my tastes and it felt very soap opera-y. I just couldn’t get on board with the way things ended up working out and it all just felt really silly and over the top.
Another thing I had an issue with — which this is actually a totally personal issue — is that I think I’m just not connecting with pre and post-WWII era novels. I loved books like Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, but I think that’s because the reader is in the action and I also felt like I learned so much about time period as I was reading it and exactly what was going on in the world. Historical fiction novels have more of a focus on romance, relationships, and how the people are “supposed” to act according to the times… They just don’t pull me in and hold my attention as much as historical novels with action and adventure do. I also feel a sense of innocence in a lot of historical fiction and I think I need a lot more bold! That was part of the thing that turned me off too Evie… She was young but she was almost 16 and just felt a little bit too naïve for me to really get a long with her.
“The View from Goodreads” is a new featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!
Ummm don’t mind where my reading seems to be out of order. Apparently I can’t do math and calculated my percentage wrong, then had to backtrack haha!
Evie // Character Obsessions: Family, growing up, Peter.
Evie was just waaaay too naïve for me. It was really difficult to listen to. She develops a puppy love crush on a 23-year-old man (who flirts back. Ew.) and then thinks she’s in love. Granted, I was naïve when I was 15 too and threw the L word around way too soon, but it’s just so hard to read about a character like that. It was frustrating, I felt embarrassed for her, and it also really clouded her vision on the number of other crazy things that were going on around her.
Peter // Character Obsessions: Secret history with Joe, ulterior movies, dazzling smiles.
I never trusted Peter from the beginning. Something about him just seemed shady. Plus, what kind of a self-respecting man flirts with a 15-year-old girl? Just weird. It was just a weird loop in the whole story and I just didn’t like him at all.
Kept Me Hooked On: Mysteries? There did end up being a mystery, but like I said, just too little too late. I would love to see more intense YA historical fiction mysteries for sure! This book just didn’t do it for me.
Left Me Wanting More: Everything. I barely connected with this book at all. Things started to pick up towards the end but then it got weird again. I was disappointed pretty much the whole time.
I had thoughts about marking it as DNF, but it wasn’t a long book so I figured I may as well see how it ends, especially since I could let the audio do the work for me. I can’t really say I’d recommend this to someone else. If you’re struggling with the beginning, I can’t say the end was much better for me.
(Click the cover to see my review!)