Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead | Review
Age Range: 9 and up
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books; 1 edition (August 7, 2012)
What to Expect: Relocating due to job loss, clubs, spies, bullies, new friends, solving problems
When Georges’ father loses his job, the family has to sell their house and move to an apartment in Brooklyn. Mom still has her nursing job, so Georges and Dad are in charge of moving day. While taking garbage to the basement, they see a sign on a door that says, “Spy Club Meeting—TODAY!” Dad, who has a quirky sense of humor, writes “What Time?” and forgets about it. Later, Georges takes empty cartons to the basement and finds an answer: “1:30?”
Thus begins Georges’ friendship with a twelve-year-old boy named Safer and his younger sister, Candy. Safer immediately makes Georges a spy in training so they can work on a case involving the man who lives in the apartment right above Georges. According to Safer, “Mr. X” has visitors who never leave, whereas Mr. X often leaves his apartment carrying suitcases. Soon Georges finds himself aiding and abetting Safer’s weird approaches to solving the mystery, until a surprising resolution explains his behavior.
Stead moves this story along with sly humor and wit, including two subplots that have equally surprising resolutions. One involves coping with two bullies at school, Dallas and Carter , who love to pick on Georges because of his name. (Georges was named after the painter Seurat.) The other involves his mother’s double shifts at the hospital to help the family income.
Though aspects of one of the subplots strained my credibility (and I won’t be a spoiler), I found this a delightful read that kept me chuckling. Georges is a smart and likable protagonist who manages to come up with his own innovative solutions to problems, and they work.
“I pace back and forth in the hall for a minute and then run back downstairs. I get into bed and lie still, but sleep is not happening. I listen for footsteps above me, though the fact is that I have never heard a single sound from Mr. X’s apartment.
That’s when my cell phone goes off. I’ve left it on my desk, where it buzzes against the wood and makes my heart practically explode.”
This book will appeal to “tween” readers (both girls and boys) who like clubs, spy stories, mysteries, and who worry about how to handle bullies at school.
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Liar & Spy was reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan.