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Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Published by Random House Children’s Books
Pages: 192
Ages: Middle Grade (9-12)
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Alibris | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository
Publishers Summary:

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?

Liar & Spy is an inspired, often-funny story about destiny, goofy brilliance, and courage. Like Stead’s Newbery Medal-winning When You Reach Me, it will keep readers guessing until the end.

A new home, new friends, a secret mission and a taste test. As if seventh grade wasn’t hard enough Georges is also trying to cope with moving from the only home he’s ever known to maneuvering through a new apartment complex filled with people who may or may not be friendly. His first encounter involves an odd but welcoming friend, Safer, who also runs a spy club. As the spy club commences in hunting down the seemingly evasive Mr. X, Georges finds himself trying to navigate all that’s going on in his own life. School bullies who seem to have the upper hand, the absence of his working mom, a strange new home and friendships he’s unsure of make life a difficult mix. One that Georges isn’t quite sure he will ever figure out.

When I discovered Rebecca Stead was coming out with another middle grade book I couldn’t help but feel a mix of emotions. Her novel When You Reach Me not only won the Newbery Award in 2010, but it’s also a favorite middle grade novel of mine. So going into Liar & Spy I was excited and nervous about what to expect. What Stead did within in the pages of Liar & Spy was proof yet again of why I had nothing to fear and exactly why she’s one of the best middle grade authors out there.

What makes Stead’s writing so phenomenal isn’t a ground breaking new setting or bizarre other-wordly characters, it’s actually the way she crafts the story of normal everyday people doing seemingly normal things. Yes, in When You Reach Me there was a bit of fantasy that involved time travel, but even then it’s not until the very last few pages that you discover how that aspect has been incorporated into the rest of the plot line. It’s Stead’s ability to hold back these valuable pieces of the story, but keep the pacing so perfect that you can’t help but want to keep reading straight through to the end. Liar & Spy was no different. Georges was a normal seventh grader dealing with things a lot of kids his age do; bullying, moving, busy parents and friendship. What makes Georges story unique is how it’s revealed and who he is as a person.

Besides Rebecca Stead’s beautiful writing there were definitely other aspects of Liar & Spy that I adored. First was Georges’ Dad and how he interacted with Georges. For the most part his dad was pretty trusting of Georges and let him wander freely as long as he checked in and kept in contact. After Georges endures a few weeks of bullying, even at the hands of a long time friend, his dad doesn’t back away from the situation and offers to get involved to help his son. In the recent past I’ve read a number of books where the parents are either incapable or simply don’t want to help their children in these types of situations. It was refreshing to see a parent who loved their child and knew they would stop at nothing to protect them, but at the same time allowed them to make their own choices. There’s so much more to this situation, including the way both parents balanced each other out so well, but I don’t want to give away too much. In that regard I also don’t want to say much about other aspects of the story, but I will say I loved the way Georges finally figures out who his friends are and who he can trust.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead takes you on a journey through the life of a pretty normal kid. A kid who could be your next door neighbor, your friend, your son or grandson. Georges struggles to discover who he really trusts and who will be there for him when it matters most. Liar & Spy is a story of friendship, about trusting yourself and about seeing the bigger picture all while making sure to live in the moment. As Rebecca Stead shares this story of the seemingly normal kid she reveals hidden surprises that will no doubt have you shocked, but leave you completely in love with her writing and ability to create characters you’ll love. This is yet another hugely successful novel from Newbery Award winning author Rebecca Stead and certainly one I cannot wait to not only read again, but pass down to my own kiddos.

The1stdaughter Recommends: Ages 8 to 15. Powerful proof that Rebecca Stead knows exactly how to write to and about middle grade readers, but in a way that readers of all ages will appreciate and love.

Find Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Alibris | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads

Thank you so much to the publisher, Random House Children’s Books, for providing a copy of this book for review that was picked up at ALA Annual in June! Connect with them on Twitter, on Pinterest and on Facebook!
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7 Responses to Book Review: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

  1. I looooved WYRM. I am soooooooooooooooooo adding it to my TBL after reading your review.

  2. Beth Hoffman says:

    I really enjoy good children’s and YA books, and this one sounds fabulous!

  3. This is the second positive review of this one I’ve read in as many days. I still haven’t read any Stead, but she has been on my radar for a while!

  4. PragmaticMom says:

    You nailed it: It’s Stead’s ability to hold back these valuable pieces of the story, but keep the pacing so perfect that you can’t help but want to keep reading straight through to the end.

    I met Rebecca Stead on a BlogFrog LiveChat and she ever so briefly mentioned this book so I was curious too if it would live up to When You Reach Me. SO GLAD IT DOES!! Can’t wait to get a copy!!!!

  5. Amy says:

    I am SO excited to read this book! I loved When You Reach Me so can’t wait to read Rebecca Stead’s latest!

  6. Gina says:

    I haven’t read this author’s work previously but have heard wonderful things. Looks like another one to add to the “must read” list.

  7. anyounimous says:

    nice book. i loved it

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