Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Scholastic, 2008)

Cindy: What a year for first novels it has been! I don't envy the YALSA Morris First Novel Committee in making their choice this year of the award. We've already blogged about a few strong contenders and here's another that is already shortlisted for the National Book Award. Blundell has crafted an atmospheric, sensual, coming-of-age, historical mystery that grabs the reader and doesn't let go. The opening scene (filled with perfume and cigarette smoke and feigned recognition about what her mother and Evie are really doing) sets the stage perfectly for the events that lead to Evie's parents being tried for murder by novel's end. As Evie reflects that she saw much more than she realized while it was happening, the reader is warned to play close attention to the subtle clues as they unfold. Besides the mystery, the post-WWII setting with the lingering prejudice against Jews and Evie's smouldering infatuation with an older man keep the blood pumping and the pages turning. Can't wait to see what this author does next.
Lynn: I was starting to feel a little smug about keeping up with the reading this year until the NBA shortlist revealed my feet of clay. I dug this book out of a life-threatening stack and was hooked right from the first cinematic scene. The sense of time and place is so vivid that I could close my eyes and hear the rustle of full skirts and smell a hint of perfume and smoke. Blundell skillfully both tantalizes and reveals providing the reader with a sense of intimate involvement enhanced by the pitch-perfect narrative voice. Hats off to Scholastic for a fabulous cover too that is not only eye-catching but perfectly reflects the book.


Abby said...

This one is definitely on my list and you guys just made me want to read it even more. Thanks for your reviews!

waltergiant said...

Except Judy Blundell is not eligible for the Morris award as she has published before under another name.

Please check the Morris committee criteria--many of the books I have heard buzz about wind up ineligible, sad to say.

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan said...

Walter, I'm bummed to learn this, but thank you for bringing it to our attention. If it mentioned that she had published before on the arc copy I missed it. Even without this one, you have a good field. Any others that you can verify are ineligible that you say you've heard buzz about? Sounds like an interesting challenge for your chair to vet the nominations.--Cindy

waltergiant said...

Well, our chair has had an able assistant, and it has been a lot of work vetting the possible titles. Publishers are not clear on what the award is for, so we got a lot of ineligible submissions--Oscar Hijuelos' DARK DUDE, for example, is a first YA, but in order to be eligible the book must be a debut publication. So I hear a lot of people talking about books that are by writers new to the field of YA but who have been published before.

Particularly tough for me are three very strong books that are, alas, ineligible: LIZARD LOVE by Wendy Townsend, CLIMBING THE STAIRS by Padma Venkatraman, and WHAT THEY ALWAYS TELL US by Martin Wilson.

I encourage you two to check these fine novels out, and then to patiently await the announcement of our short list in December.