Sunday, August 3, 2014

Book Review

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

4 stars out of 5

When Georges' family moves to a new apartment in Brooklyn he sees an intriguing note tacked in the basement - "Spy Meeting Today." Enter Safer, a home-schooled, paranoid, spy-busting boy around Georges' age and Safer's little sister Candy. Plagued by troubles at school and home, Georges eagerly dives into Safer's world of spy hunting, on the lookout for the mysterious Mr. X - a sinister figure always dressed in black who takes a suspicious number of suitcases into and out of his apartment. But while life is just getting interesting it's getting more complicated too. Georges dad lost his job, hence their move, his mom is never home because she has to work extra hours at the hospital, and thanks to the Science Unit of Destiny at school Georges may end up labeled a loser and geek for the rest of his life if things don't change soon.

I really loved Stead's first novel, When You Reach Me, and was looking forward to reading her newest work. Stead has a flair for characterization I can't help but admire. It's easy to picture the cast of characters that fill this book and each is distinct and memorable. She's also a genius at description, bringing a scene to life with vivid, unique detail. I appreciate the language and turns of phrase in Liar & Spy more than anything. The plot, however, was a bit slow for my tastes. I was fully prepared to give this novel a 3 star rating as I enjoyed it but didn't fall in love with it overall. The last few chapters bumped that rating up to a 4 however thanks to an unexpected twist. Stead molded it so seamlessly into the novel that I felt like banging my head against a wall at the reveal and screaming "Of course! How did I miss that?" Always a good thing.

This is a fun, quick read and utterly perfect for middle grade readers who'll be able to relate to Georges struggles. I think it'll have equal appeal with girls and boys. As an adult reader I enjoyed the characterization but other than that didn't find any deep meaning or greater appeal for me in the book. I'm glad I read it, still a fan of Stead's work, but I enjoyed When You Reach Me more.

This book will appeal to fans of the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger and The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman. This is a middle grade reader and you'll find it shelved with the middle grade and YA books.

Find it on Goodreads >>

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