02 October 2012

Review: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Seventh grade is bad enough all on its own, but for Georges (don't say the S) the world seems to be tumbling down. First, his dad got laid off and his mom had to take on extra shifts at the hospital. Next, they had to sell their house and move to an apartment. Finally, his best friend is now sitting with the cool kids at lunch and is even hanging around with school bully.

The good news is they still live in the same neighborhood, which means Georges didn't have to change schools and can visit all his familiar haunts. Plus he met Safer, a boy who lives in his building. Safer and his family are a bit odd, but Georges likes having the after-school company--that is, until his new friend begins to make too many demands.

Rebecca Stead's Liar & Spy is so full of wonderful, it's difficult to know where to begin. I think the thing that stands out most is Stead's ability to teach important lessons in such a way that you don't even realize you're learning. So many middle grade books bop kids over the head with their messages. Stead, on the other hand, tells a story from a boy's worldview, and we see the truth only when he does. The result is a novel that can be read for fun or for discussion with equal enjoyment.

Georges is going through so much upheaval that he's initially happy to have Safer take the lead as head of their Spy Club. As Georges learns the ropes of becoming an assistant spy, he's sometimes irritated with Safer and sometimes not quite sure he's doing the right thing. The crux of the novel is how Georges begins to see people and situations from a more mature perspective and how that in turn helps him come to terms with his family's situation and the nature of his friendships.

Liar & Spy is my first Rebecca Stead novel, and I am so impressed with her ability to create an utterly believable middle grade world. Although all the characters jump off the page, Georges in particular wins your heart. He's a great kid--smart and funny, yet insecure. Above all, though, he's kind and forgiving, two traits that we can all use more of.

Read Liar & Spy for fun, recommend it to your kids and teachers, pick it up for a middle reader book club. This novel is going on my best of 2012 list.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Listening Library; 4 hr, 30 min) read by Jesse Bernstein. Although I can say with confidence that Liar & Spy would be just as good in print, Bernstein brought the novel to life. His consistent characterizations (complete with an adolescent pitch) and appropriate level of emotion make the audiobook a winner. Pop this one into the player the next time your family is cooped up on a rainy Saturday or when you have an afternoon car trip. Everyone will be engrossed.

This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted every Saturday by Julie at Booking Mama.

Buy Liar & Spy at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Random House Children / Wendy Lamb Books 2012
ISBN-13: 9780385737432
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: A+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 10/2/12, 7:55 AM  

I loved this too! You are so right about it being "so full of wonderful"! (punctuation outside the quote because it wasn't part of your quote)

bermudaonion 10/2/12, 9:27 AM  

Wow, this sounds fabulous! I love books with subtle lessons. I really like that this is told from a male perspective as well.

Daryl 10/2/12, 9:42 AM  

sounds like a great book ... thanks!

Unknown 10/2/12, 10:13 AM  

Oh, I bet the audio is fantastic! I'm a huge fan of Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me - I highly recommend you read it!!

Julie P. 10/2/12, 11:24 AM  

This was fabulous!!! You must read WHEN YOU REACH ME!

Zibilee 10/2/12, 12:10 PM  

I like the sound of this one, and even if my kids are too old for this genre, my nephew isn't and he would probably love this book. Thanks for the excellent review today. This is one that needs to get sent to him!

Belle Wong 10/2/12, 12:27 PM  

This sounds like a great read. I just read WHEN YOU REACH ME a few months ago, and really enjoyed it. I'll have to add this one to my list!

Sandy Nawrot 10/2/12, 12:31 PM  

It is good for me to reach out and read something for a middle grade kid. It is refreshing (I absolutely LOVED Wonder). Sounds like this one is in that same category. I'm going to see if I can get it on audio as well.

Jenners 10/2/12, 1:35 PM  

I think Stead strikes the right note between being kid-friendly but writing mature books that teach lessons far beyond their years. I must read this one.

Unknown 10/6/12, 2:33 PM  

I heard nothing but good things about When You Reach Me, and now this looks like getting the same. I really must get around to reading Rebecca Stead soon.

Julie 10/7/12, 12:39 PM  

This sounds wonderful; I know that kids definitely don't like being "talked at" to learn a lesson. Another one for the Christmas book box.

Carole 10/7/12, 4:10 PM  

Thanks for linking this in to Books You Loved: October. If you pop back in a day or so there will be even more good book links to check out. Have a great week.

Les 10/8/12, 1:01 PM  

I have this in my stacks and plan to read it later this year. Last month, my granddaughter and I read When You Reach Me for our new book club and we both loved it. This one sounds like another winner!

Elizabeth 10/23/12, 9:13 PM  


Stopping by from Carole's Books I Loved Post.

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