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I read this book after hearing a lot about it and all the good reviews it had been given. It has been the best book i've read in a long time. The characters were so real and you warm to Evie straight away. An extremely good read. Would definately recommend it.
5.0 out of 5 starsKeeping up appearances: Insightful coming-of-age novel with a thriller twist
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 August 2009
Many "chick-lit" novels are full of shopping-and-fashion references, and this one is no exception. What makes it different is how those references are used. It's America in 1947, and for fifteen year old Evie, after years of making-do, the swirling skirts and cinched-in waists of post-war luxury represent a whole new life, a burgeoning freedom and the beginning of womanhood. When she meets Peter, a charming older stranger on a family holiday, she falls hard. Nothing is quite what it seems, however, and as she gradually learns the truth about Peter, her parents and the wealthy couple they encounter in a Florida hotel (the aptly named "Mirage") she learns that the barriers between truth and lies are not as watertight as she'd always imagined.
Judy Blundell writes beautifully, with a real sense of time and place and a sensuous insight into the mind of a clever, though innocent girl. There are some vivid set pieces - a hurricane evacuation, a mini-courtroom drama - the thriller-ish plot is absorbing and characters are brilliantly drawn. The bitter old battleaxe of a granny is especially memorable as well as the mysterious ex-soldier Peter, who Evie seems to glimpse through a golden miasma of beautiful lies.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 2 September 2009
Knowing that this book was advertised as for teens, being a little older myself I initially thought that I'd have to look at this book as though I was somebody with younger eyes.
Happily for me, I found that I didn't need to. It's very easily readable so teens shouldn't have problems with it, but the story is a universal one of first love, loss of innocence and family struggles - clearly it's pitched at teens, but I don't think any adult who picks it up will dislike it either. Blundell touches on so many issues here, both historical and timeless ones of growing up, but you never feel like she's being preachy or hitting you around the head with them. She's incredibly quick to set the 40s scene, she invokes the era and her settings extremely well, but she does very well in making sure that modern youngsters will still be able to identify with the happenings in the book - the protagonist Evie's first flush of love, feeling like Mom wants her to be a baby forever, learning that your parents aren't always whiter than white.
The central story is well paced and keeps the page turning - there is a sense of foreboding through the book that made me read on and that was well paid off. Emotional arcs are subtly crafted and visible throughout, keeping you invested in Evie's story. I have to give the author huge props for her sensitive but not overdone handling of WWII in the book; she'll probably alert a few teenagers to some things they didn't know and give them food for thought, but as I said above it never feels forced or heavy handed. Older readers may spot a few things happening in the book before Evie does, but rather than being predictable or obvious Blundell merely hints towards the things that her character is staring in the face but in her innocence fails to immediately see. Teens of Evie's age will identify with her, older readers will feel for her.
Also... not the most important things about a book, but I love the cover art and the title. It's an immediately grabbing title and I think the book cover is lovely. All in all, a resounding endorsement from me.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 September 2009
Hugely enjoyable and wonderfully well written 'coming of age' tale of a new york teenager coming to terms with her mother and stepfathers dubious pasts, and growing up emotionally along the way.
Bringing a wealth of convincing period detail, including centrally the casual anti-Semitism of post war America - i didn't know that the "color bar" extended to Jews too. All this history lives comfortably inside the story - it is not a lecture or forced down your throats; you don't feel you are being done good.
There is a persistent air of tension: we are presented with a picture of the perfect all American family, but the unsettling feeling that all is not well beneath is always there and eventually surfaces in a hurricane in Florida. Well handled and well managed the tension accelerates progressively through the tale. Perhaps it lags a little in the middle, but certainly the tempo picks up and by the end, its difficult not to fly through the pages.
Intended (as i discovered later) as a teen read, and teen girls at that, you may choose at this point to disregard this middle aged males views. But i think this is terrific stuff - a fantastic read for a mid or older teenager, and not at all bad for this crumbling male either.
5.0 out of 5 starsA glamorous and sophisticated read!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 8 September 2009
Step back in time to the 1940's and relive the sights, smells and sounds of the era. This is a beautifully written book that very skilfully draws you in to the lives of Evie Spooner, her glamorous mother Bev, her step father Joe.
Set two years after the end of the Second World War, rationing has come to an end and things are looking up for the family. Just shy of 16, Evie is desperate to grow up, to be able to "fill out a sweater" like the other girls and wear lipstick - only her mum won't hear any of it. Then things start to happen, and happen fast. Joe ups and takes the family to Florida to avoid an old army buddy who is trying to trace him, there they quickly fall in with the wealthy Greysons and Evie falls in love with a handsome older man, Peter Coleridge. But all is not what it seems; secrets and lies begin to unravel and Evie has to grow up fast.
An absolutely sumptous book! I was hooked as soon as I had finished the first page. Don't be put off by the fact it is aimed at the teenage market, it is a mature piece of fiction; and teenage readers, don't be put off that it is set in 1940's America, the themes running through the book are as relevant today as they were then.
5.0 out of 5 starsExcellent Post-World War II Mystery
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 September 2009
Two years after WWII fifteen-year-old Evie Spooner is desperate to grow up and no longer be treated as a child by her mother. Her ex-soldier stepfather has returned home and has started a number of successful businesses but laments the constant appearance of former comrades looking for work. After phone calls from one her stepfather, Joe, packs up the family and travels to Florida for a family holiday; a holiday that turns out to bring first love and tragedy.
This is a good novel which leaves the reader to debate the events and the era is interesting to read about, especially the attitude some Americans had about Jews which I was unaware of. I found it an easy read and the historical element gave it that little bit extra. I think it might be slightly too adult for my 13-year-old niece but in the next year or so I think she'll love it!
5.0 out of 5 starsForay into past which is relevant to present
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 November 2009
A `coming of age` novel set in post WW2 America potrays Evie`s transformation from a child to an adult. As an innocent child ; this is pre-teenagers ; her world is very black and white . She longs to be the beautiful adult woman who fascinates men as her mother does. The dichotomy between adults and children is perhaps enomalous to today`s young person but Blundell skilfully negotiates between talking down to her young reader and explaining the different area. Evie grows into womanhood not from meeting a handsome stranger and falling in love , but by the occurence of a tragedy that will tear her loyalty between the man of her dreams and her family. Blundell`s competence as a writer for young adults is unbounded. Her delving into a time of great change ; 1940`s post war America ; has allowed her to bring a fascinating new insight into this time for her reader .
5.0 out of 5 starsAll that Evie learned that summer
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 September 2009
The summer before her 16th birthday Evie Spooner learned a lot. She learned about love and betrayal. She learned about the perniciousness of racism She learned about the anti semitic restriction codes She learned that the war never really ended in 1945 She learned that its shadow would blight the lives of us all for generations to come. She learned about clothes She learned about love She learned about compromise Maybe she grew up and moved to Peyton Place or some other small town steeped in a culture of prejudice Maybe her daughters will learn all the words to Shirelles songs.
Yes Evie Spooner learned a lot that summer in Palm Beach She learned that nobody could really be trusted She learned that growing from a child to a woman was probably the most complicated transformation possible She learned that there were crimes that were so unspeakable nobody ever mentioned them. She learned that her childhood could be murdered She learned that honesty is not always the best policy She learned that the Big Lie is that we are all entitled to Happiness She learned that there was more than one way to lose your Innocence
Judy Blundell has written a tight little noir for young adults that references that other great American coming of age novel The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers as well as the much publicised Lana Turner murder case.