At last, a book that might just deserve its award.
Evie, who has never known her biological father and grew up in the shadow of her mother longs for the day when she can be considered a 'grown-up' (which means being able to wear lipstick and smoke cigarettes). At the same time she is adjusting to life in post-World War II America where rations are a distant memory and her stepfather Joe Spooner is a living breathing prescence instead of words on a page.
When Joe whisks Evie and her mother off to Florida even though the school year has just begun, Evie doesn't see anything suspicious about this. Nor does she see anything fishy about the arrival at the hotel of Peter Coleridge, a handsome ex-GI who served in the same postwar company as Joe. Evie, of course falls in love with Peter and pursues him to her mother's displeasure. At the same time there is an undercurrent of tension and mystery despite the friendship of the Spooners, Coleridge, and the Graysons' (a couple her parents become friends with at the hotel). Instead the stage is being set for lust, murder, and betrayal, all of which leave Evie having to confront what really happened and who she needs to protect.
While it was not immediately obvious I don't think it was difficult to see where the story was going and how it would end. I loved that the plot had echoes of film-noir mystery and Old Hollywood glamour. Evie herself is a likeable protagonist whose difficult choices evoke the sympathy of readers. But what I liked the most is that the book dispells the notion that after World War II the soldiers came home, picked up their lives, moved to the suburbs, gave birth to the Baby Boomers and all was well and good. Instead the author takes the time to point out the hypocrisy that a country which helped close concentration camps would allow anti-Semitism to exist on its own soil. Fortunately this is done in a thought-provoking and subtle way without pounding you over the head but letting you draw your own opinion. The author also explores the lengths we go to protect the ones we love.
Overall, an excellent read and I understand why the book won the National Book Award for Young Adults.