Saturday, August 4, 2012

Review: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Tags: middle grade, contemporary, friendship


Georges (the S is silent; yes, his parents are crazy Seurat fans) is just an ordinary boy, slightly north of nerdy, who’s trying to survive seventh grade. Then, in his new apartment building, he meets Safer, a boy his own age, and gets pulled into Safer’s strange spy games. But as Safer’s games get stranger and stranger, Georges has to decide where to draw the line between fantasy and reality…both within himself and without.


Rebecca Stead, whose previous book, When You Reach Me, I loved (and, apparently, so did a lot of other people, as it won the Newbery), is back with another middle grade novel, LIAR & SPY. Different in feel and content from When You Reach Me, it nevertheless pays homage to the intelligence and subtleties possible for middle grade literature.

Georges and other characters of LIAR & SPY are fairly average in terms of memorability, but wicked smart in terms of intelligence for characters their age. It’s not every day you get to read a middle-grade novel that involve the attempted English spelling reform movement and the umami taste (that’s the one that recognizes delicious or savory foods). Knowledge can come whenever and wherever, in all forms, as Rebecca Stead proves over and over again.

Safer’s suspicious and passive-aggressive behavior did get on my nerves pretty quickly, as they did Georges’, but the characters’ insecurities, actions, and feelings are all very genuine to the physical and emotional turmoil of middle school. And, as always, Stead writes a killer of an ending, one that nearly singlehandedly bumped my rating of this book up a whole star. Alas, the rest of LIAR & SPY didn’t capture my affections the way When You Reach Me did—the pacing was slower and the characters not as easily likable. Nevertheless, despite the lack of emotional connection on my part, it is a touching and impressive work of literature that fans of middle grade and young adult literature alike should consider reading.

Cover discussion: So unique and deceptively simplistic. I like how it retains similar elements from the cover of When You Reach Me!

Wendy Lamb Books / Aug. 7, 2012 / Hardcover / 192pp. / $15.99

e-galley received for review from publisher and NetGalley.


  1. I think the cover from this book is really cute! And it sounds like a story that's really interesting.

  2. You hit on a lot of the things I was thinking about this book-Safer was irksome but I loved the inclusion of the spelling reform for a couple of very random but enjoyable moments.


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