As Blundell says of that time period:
"I also like the fact that teenagers had more autonomy. They were more on their own; they weren't tethered to each other by cell phones. If you got in trouble, you couldn't text OMG HELP to your best friend." (Source)
So it's no surprise, really, that the first novel Blundell published under her own name (in 2008), What I Saw and How I Lied, is an exploration of—you guessed it—a teenager's life in post-WWII America. (For more on that whole own name bit, be sure to check out the "Best of the Web" section.)
Here’s the scoop on this time period: The men who served in the war have just come home after a long absence, so families are learning how to be together again, and everything's returning to a new kind of normal. This is the world that Evie Spooner—an almost sixteen-year-old girl from New York and our leading lady—finds herself growing up in. Add racism, injustice, budding sexuality, and murder to the mix, and Evie's definitely got her work cut out for her.
Sounds juicy, right?
It totally is. Plus it's really well written, as evidenced by the nice little collection of awards it's garnered for itself. What I Saw and How I Lied is not only a National Book Award winner, but also a School Library Journal Best Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults winner too. In other words, we're not the only ones giving it rave reviews.
So whether you're as enamored with the 1940s as Blundell, or if you like a good mystery—heck, if you just like some k-i-s-s-i-n-g up in your books—then What I Saw and How I Lied is definitely the book for you. It doesn't just give readers a historical snapshot after all, and instead it's a story for the ages.
Sex, lies, murder, war… Yup—there are a number of reasons to pick this book up. But the real reason you should do so—the reason pretty much anyone should, whether you like sci fi or bodice rippers—is that it dives deep into the gray nature of morality. Time and again, What I Saw and How I Lied takes an up close and personal look at just how difficult it is to make the right decision when things aren't so black and white—and that's a struggle anyone can relate to.
So grab your moral compass, Shmoopsters, and hitch your wagon to Evie's star as she sorts out how to respond to systematic racism, parental deception to the worst degree, and how to handle her burgeoning sexuality in a society that discourages young women from, shall we say, blooming. She may only be sixteen, but Evie takes on seriously complex moral issues—and though she's basically the youngest character in the book, she outshines everyone who's older than her when it comes to figuring out the right thing to do. Don’t judge her by her size.
Officially obsessed with Judy Blundell's writing? We don't blame you. Check out her website for more.
Jude Watson, Reporting for Duty
Judy Blundell doesn't always publish under her real name—sometimes she does so as Jude Watson. And when she does, she gets to write Queen Amidala's journal for her. How cool is that?
Let's Talk Character
In an interview with the National Book Foundation, Judy Blundell admits that she had tons of fun writing the secondary characters, including grumpy mean old Grandma Glad.
When Teen Reads asks Judy Blundell what her writing process is, she describes it as: "Lots of pacing. And sometimes pretzels." Sounds about right.
What an Honor
Judy Blundell is the real deal. Here's a video of her giving a speech as she accepts her award at the National Book Award Ceremony in 2008.
Murder Mystery Radio Show
If you'd rather capture the vintage noir feel of What I Saw and How I Lied with your ears, you can get the audiobook here.
The cover image for What I Saw and How I Lied certainly lives up to the novel's noir inspirations. How dark and glamorous.
Judy Blundell's daughter drew a flattering (and accurate, we're sure) portrait of her mother. Was this what you imagined the author looks like?
What did Bev's vampy, man-eating lipstick look like, anyway? Well, here's an old ad for Revlon's "Fatal Apple" lipstick.