Friday, August 16, 2013

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Georges (named after Georges Seurat) and his family have moved out of their house and into an apartment, in the same neighborhood, leaving behind many treasures and memories. Georges' dad lost his job and is trying to start his own business. Georges' mom is a nurse and is working a lot of double shifts to help with the financial difficulties. Georges misses his house, especially his bedroom, and he misses seeing his mother.

Georges is still at the same school, which isn't necessarily a good thing. He is the victim of bullies and his friend since kindergarten has abandoned him to be friends with the cool kids. There is a big taste test coming up in science and school lore maintains that is determines who is a loser and who's not. Georges is dreading it because he is sure it will cement his position as an outcast and a victim.

Friendship possibilities improve for Georges when he meets Safer, a quirky homeschooler who lives in his building and has a warm, inviting, but equally quirky family. Safer soon draws Georges into his spy games, convincing him of one tenant's nefarious deeds and shady character.

There are several layers to this story, as there were in Newbery winner Stead's When I Reach You. Besides the mystery involving the enigmatic neighbor, there is the mystery of why Safer rarely leaves the building. Georges' dad spends a lot of time at the hospital with Georges' mom, who is supposedly working and Georges never want to go along.

Georges handling and the eventual outcome of the feared taste test at school is both clever and potentially believable. While all of his problems don't go away, the resolution of the story is both hopeful and satisfying. Rebecca Stead has written another good story full of characters with whom kids can relate.   

R.Rauch                                                                                                                           2012

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