Sunday, April 21, 2013

Liar & Spy, Rebecca Stead

Liar & SpyThere's this totally false map of the human tongue. It's supposed to show where we taste different things, like salty on the side of the tongue, sweet in the front, bitter in the back. Some guy drew it a hundred years ago, and people have been forcing kids to memorize it ever since. But it's wrong - all wrong. As in, not even the slightest bit right.

I enjoyed When You Reach Me, so I gave Rebecca Stead's latest novel a try. And it was really good. It's the story of Georges (the s is silent) who moves into a new apartment building in Brooklyn, where he meets Safer, a twelve-year-old drinker of coffee and leader of the Spy Club. He also has a younger sister named Candy. Georges slowly gets to know their family, and enjoys hanging out with them. He's been having problems at home and school: his dad lost his job, and his mom works extra shifts as a nurse. At school, he's the target of Dallas, a big bully and also a big idiot. Georges is Safer's first recruit, and his job is to track the mysterious Mr. X who lives in the apartment his. But how far will he be willing to go? And is Safer telling him the truth?

In case you couldn't tell, I basically paraphrased the given summary. I really enjoyed the characters in this quirky novel, especially Candy, who's about seven years old but really smart and interesting. The thing about Rebecca Stead's novels is that there are so many different elements that contribute to the over-arching story and to the overarching "themes". There's the fact that the kids are learning about taste in science, and the Seurat painting that Georges talks about. In some ways, Liar & Spy is about seeing the big picture, not just the little dots.

Though the book is of course very different from Wonder, which I recently read, it also had some similarities in its picture of school life. For starters, both books are set in New York. Then, there's the fact that both of the protagonists are getting bullied. The writing is also kind of similar, though Georges is two years older than August. Liar & Spy is a much lighter and less cheesy book though.

There's a really big twist at the end of Liar & Spy; I'm not sure if I liked it. It just felt so sudden and completely unexpected, and it didn't seem to add much to the story. However, there was also an amazing scene at the end where the bullies get their comeuppance, and the "rules" of the school get defied. I really enjoyed this one, and would recommend it.

Read Liar & Spy:
  • if you like Rebecca Stead
  • if you like quirky realistic fiction
  • if you like MG novels
180 pages, 4.5 stars.

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