Review: Seventh grade is not going well for Georges (pronounced George), the only child of an out-of-work Brooklyn architect and a nurse who named him after her favorite painter, pointillist Georges Seurat. Although Georges's mother has taken on double shifts to bring in extra income, the family has had to sell their house and move into an apartment. At school, former best friend Jason, who has started dressing like the skateboarder he isn't, now stands idly aside while bullies harass Georges. Liar and Spy is a book examining all the different and complex aspects of friendships.
Stead balances Georges's dark, sad period with the introduction of the new neighbors: amateur spy Safer, and his younger sister, Candy, whose parents (in one of many hilarious details) let the kids name themselves. As homeschooled siblings, they offer refreshing perspectives on the ridiculousness of what goes on at Georges's school, including a forthcoming science unit on taste buds that the kids believe forecasts one's destiny. Safer recruits Georges to investigate and observe--using the lobbycam to track a mysterious tenant and binoculars to monitor a nest of wild green parrots--but the biggest secrets are the ones these two boys have buried in their hearts.
Like Stead's previous novel, When You Reach Me, Liar and Spy has been critically acclaimed and garnered several starred reviews, however, I don't understand the hype. The pacing is quite slow and it stalls in several places, making the reader wonder where and how the many plot lines are going to converge and make sense. There a lot of subtleties and metaphors in this book and I'm not sure whether kids would care enough to find them in this multi-layered story on their own. While there are fascinating characters and intelligent questions presented in the book, it may not appeal enough to kids to finish it.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.
If you like this book try: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh