Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's not often that I read a contemporary middle grade novel that is as compelling as a fantasy, or an adventure, or even a historical story. Contemporary stories are so challenging because they reflect life--they reflect us, in all our flawed intricacies. And that's a very difficult thing to portray. But Rebecca Stead delivers with Liar & Spy.
This novel is truly one of the best contemporary middle grade stories that I have read. Georges(the "s" is silent) is a seventh grader who moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and becomes acquainted with a boy named Safer, his upstairs neighbor, who also happens to be a self-appointed spy. George becomes Safer's right-hand man, and together they track the movements of Mr. X, a mysterious neighbor who is perpetually dressed in black. But as Safer asks more of Georges, Georges questions how far he should go in the name of friendship.
Written with wit and unflinching realism, Georges's story is one that resonates long after you've finished reading the book. Stead sprinkles in so many delightful truths and that I often found myself stopping to read her sentences twice. The supporting characters are well-rounded and engaging, and the setting is special for me, having lived in a Brooklyn walk-up for three years. But overall, what Stead provides in Liar & Spy is an honest portrayal of friendship and family. She explores the ties that bind us, and the lies that tear us up--and in the end, she tells a story that anyone, young or old, can relate to and appreciate.
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