To say I was smitten with When You Reach Me would be an understatement; it was one of those books that I found absorbing and beautifully written, and I thought of it for days after I finished it. Needless to say, I had very high hopes when Liar & Spy, Rebecca Stead’s new book, came out. Written in her same direct yet heartfelt style, Liar & Spy tells the story of Georges and the friendship he discovers in his new apartment building.
Georges, named after the painter Georges Seurat, has not been having an easy year. His best friend became cool over the summer and now they no longer talk, the school bullies keep calling him Gorgeous and pick on him daily, and his dad lost his job, which means Georges’ mom is picking up doubles at work and they had to sell their house and move into an apartment building. It is in this new building that Georges encounters Safer, a home-schooled neighbour who is obsessed with spying, particularly on the mysterious Mr. X, who dresses only in black and never smiles. Georges’ after-school hours are suddenly filled with strange adventures and encounters, as Safer begins training his new friend in the ways of a dedicated spy. Through his friendship with Safer and his troubles at school, Georges has to figure out what he believes in, as well as how much he is willing to put up with.
With convincing dialogue and realistic portrayals of pre-teen kids, Rebecca Stead creates memorable characters that stick with you once the story is finished. While it didn’t succeed in supplanting When You Reach Me in my heart, it was nonetheless a wonderful story. I felt such sympathy for Georges, who struggles to get through his days at school, trying to remind himself that none of what is happening now will matter in the long run. I also thought the cast of supporting characters were simply fantastic. Mrs. Warner, the gym teacher, made me laugh, but most of all, I loved Bob English Who Draws; his interactions with Georges were some of my favourite in the book.
With some surprises at the end, this book will keep you flipping the pages, but don’t flip too fast or you might miss the wonderful, deep and heartfelt questions Stead brings up. Liar & Spy is already getting a lot of attention from critics, but this is the kind of book that people of all ages will like. With straightforward writing and a great ensemble of characters, think about giving this one a try!