As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

January 18, 2013

LIAR & SPY by Rebecca Stead, 2012

When seventh grader Georges (the S is silent) moves into a Brooklyn apartment building, he meets Safer, a twelve-year-old coffee-drinking loner and self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer's first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: how far is too far to go for your only friend? (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Julie, Children's Lit enthusiast and general pop culture geek

I am a huge fan of Rebecca Stead’s previous book, the Newbery Award winner “When You Reach Me,” and eagerly anticipated this book for months.  While, when compared to "When You Reach Me," "Liar & Spy" isn't as high-concept and, therefore, carefully structured, it was still worth the wait.

LIAR & SPY is narrated by Georges (the ‘s’ is silent), a seventh-grade boy who has just moved from his childhood home to a new apartment due to his father’s recent unemployment.  Grappling with the move, his mother’s long work shifts at the hospital, and a group of bullies at school, Georges has more on his plate than the average seventh grader can handle.  But when he meets his new neighbor Safer, a self-appointed spy from an eccentric family, Georges is thrown into a world of secrets, lies, and espionage.  When the spying begins to go too far, Georges must ask himself how far he’ll go to keep his only friend.

Like she did with “When You Reach Me,” Rebecca Stead incorporates strong, likable characters, a gripping plot, and the equal parts humor and bittersweetness of growing up.  Stead has a particular sense of current problems facing middle graders, particularly the issue of bullying.  She paints a sympathetic portrait of Georges who, as he tries to shake off a couple of “middle school jerks,” truly struggles with the effect that constant teasing has on his present.  Kids will identify with Georges—and cheer him on to his plan for a resolution.

Another highlight is the character Safer, an intriguing homeschooler who loves birds and drinks coffee from a flask.  When Safer takes Georges under his wing, they develop both a fascinating friendship and a student-teacher dynamic.  But as the novel continues, readers will begin to question whether Safer is all that he seems—as well as which character is the “liar” and which is the “spy.”

Fast-paced, thoughtful, and funny in parts, “Liar & Spy” is an excellent novel with an end twist that shouldn’t be missed!

Market:  Middle-grade fiction
Violence:  None
Language:  Mild (1-2 instances during bullying scenes)
Sensuality:  None
Adult themes:  Unemployment, bullying, family illness

1 comment:

Rosalyn said...

How apropos! I just finished reading this yesterday and really enjoyed it.