Coming-of-Age; Family Drama; Historical Fiction
Since the entirety of What I Saw and How I Lied follows Evie Spooner (who's in the midst of teenage turmoil and angst), it makes sense that the story would track her path to growing up.
Over the course of the novel, Evie goes from having a naïve, narrow view of the world to seeing things as they really are—for better or for worse. She comes to understand that her parents are not as perfect as she thought they were, and that when she grows up, she doesn't want to be like them at all. She also develops her own individual sense of justice and even has somewhat of a sexual awakening when it comes to her feelings for Peter. Talk about a busy vacation.
Oh boy, things are definitely getting a little dramatic for the Spooner family. All of the drama that occurs when Peter Coleridge arrives on the scene doesn't begin and end with Evie—everyone in her family gets involved.
It turns into this big mess, with Evie's mom having an affair with Peter, Evie in love with the guy, and Joe brimming with hatred for the dude due to their shared history from serving in the war together and Peter's fondness for Joe's wife. Things only get worse when Joe and Bev are suspected of killing Peter, and ask Evie to lie for them so that they won't go to jail. That's more turmoil than most families go through in a lifetime—and they cram it all into one little beach trip.
What I Saw and How I Lied takes place directly after WWII, when all the soldiers (including Joe and Peter) have come home from the war and are back in the United States with their families. Even though the story doesn't take place during the war, everything that happens is a result of the war's aftermath. As the reader, we get to see what happens when soldiers come home and families are reunited, as well as the lingering race issues and anti-Semitism that are still present in post-war America.