Study Guide

What I Saw and How I Lied Coming of Age

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Coming of Age

Margie held her candy cigarette high in the air, even though ladies don't smoke on the street. We couldn't imagine being wicked enough to smoke on the street, but it was something to shoot for, something that smacked of high heels and saying "damn" if you broke a nail. (2.7)

When the novel starts out, Evie and her friend Margie have no idea what it means to be grown-up, and instead they just play at it, smoking fake cigarettes on the corner like some kind of glamorous woman.

They didn't move. She was bent back in his arms, one hand on his chest. Suddenly I was just like the chair, or the hat rack—just a stick of furniture in the room. Back then they were everything I knew about glamour. Everything I knew about love. (4.26)

Evie's just a kid who's never experienced real romance in her life—not even the grade school kind where you hold hands and then never talk to each other again. Because of this, she thinks that her mom and Joe have the most perfect, loving relationship.

I know now how you can take one step and you can't stop yourself from taking another. I know now what it means to want. I know it can get you to a place where there's no way out. I know now that there's no such thing as just one. But I didn't know it then. (6.40)

All this time, Evie's been so stinking excited to grow up and be an adult like her mom. But what she doesn't realize is that once you grow up, you can't go back to a place of innocence—whether you like it or not.

If I were pretty, a doll, a dish, maybe some of the boys would have gotten up the nerve to come and introduce themselves. But I saw their glances slide off me, like ugly was Vaseline, and I was coated with it. (7.4)

As much as Evie wants to be beautiful and curvaceous like her mom and the other girls in her grade, she's still a little gawky and needs to grow into herself. She's not going to attract all the boys just yet.

As the adults talked, I couldn't seem to punch a hole in the conversation. I couldn't capture his attention, not like I had the night before. I felt young and stupid again, with my glass of lemonade and my brown sandals. (10.3)

Evie keeps trying to insert herself into the grown-up conversation, but she's lost—just a kid sitting there with a glass of lemonade while the grown-ups sip on cocktails. When will she ever be that glamorous and confident?

She cocked her head and looked at me. "Do you know that Bev dresses you like a kid? I think I saw you in a pinafore the other day. Really! How old are you?" (11.30)

Because her mom doesn't want her to see it, Evie doesn't realize that she's growing up physically and that she can start wearing more womanly clothing. She's got it, and now she can flaunt it.

He stood there, and I saw something change for him. I saw me change for him. That dress I thought had changed me in his eyes? It had been nothing. This was it, this was finally it, when I got what I wanted. (20.36)

The way to a man's heart—at least Peter's—is to talk to him like an adult, an equal. All this time, Evie's been trying to woo him with cute hairstyles, lipstick, and high heels, but what really made him see her as a woman was her insight into his life.

Being an adult—was this it? Doing the thing you most in your life didn't want to do, and doing it with a shrug? (34.8)

Being a grown-up sure is a bummer. Instead of cocktail parties and glittering gowns, Evie's just dealing with lying under oath and having to go back to her old life and responsibilities. Not so ritzy after all, huh?

"Tell me everything," she said dramatically. "It was in the papers here, you know. My mother said it was an ordeal for your stepfather. An ordeal, she said. But then you said it was you all along who loved him. An older man!" (34.13)

When Evie left on her trip to Florida, she felt like a kid next to Margie because Margie "filled out" her sweaters better (if you know what that means). But now that she's back, she feels light years ahead of Margie, who just wants to gossip like a stupid teenager.

I would love my mother, but I would never want to be her again. I would never be what someone else wanted me to be. I would never laugh at a joke I didn't think was funny. I would never tell another lie. I would be the truth teller, starting today. (35.103)

By the end, Evie has certainly toughened up and developed a more serious sense of identity. She's not going to just blindly follow what her parents tell her to do—she's planning to be her own person from now on, and that's a promise.

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