Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead - book review

Publisher's Synopsis: "The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of the Newbery Medal book When You Reach Me: a story about spies, games, and friendship. Seventh grader Georges moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, a twelve-year-old self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer's first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: what is a lie, and what is a game? How far is too far to go for your only friend? Like the dazzling When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy will keep readers guessing until the end."

I love When You Reach Me and was excited to begin Liar & Spy.  I grabbed it the minute it came and headed for my favorite reading spot. I made it to about page 20 before I was nodding off. I chalked that up to a long work day and tried again the next afternoon. Snooze. Long story short, it took me a long time to get through it. I stuck with it out of respect for the fine writing and the desire to see if Stead could pull off the twist ending again (she did).

Liar & Spy just doesn't have that kid appeal that held my interest with When You Reach Me.  Stead's an excellent writer with a tight story and well developed characters. Even though they were very well-drawn, I just wasn't interested in them. There was an undercurrent of melancholy, a sadness, that permeated the whole thing. When you get to the ending, you see that Stead did this on purpose (as part of that surprise ending), but it just created a depression in the story that left me flat.

I hated when I saw reviews like this with regard to When You Reach Me. I wanted to point out all the amazing things that Stead does in her writing; and she does it again with Liar & Spy.  Due to the strong writing, there will be many readers who enjoy the tale. I'm just not certain the average 10 year old will be engaged with this one.

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Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age: 9 and up
Pages: 192
Themes: Family Life & Challenges, Friendship, Honesty, Difficult Choices, Bullies
Character Development: Interesting group of children and adults with a few quirks
Plot Engagement: Develops slowly and methodically, strong readers needed
Originality: quirky family + economically challenged family = Eh, so so
Believability: Nothing that takes it out of the norm
Thank You to publisher for my advanced copy
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books ( a division of Random House Books)
Date: August 7, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0385737432
Buy Liar & Spy HERE
Book Site
Lesson Activities

Rebecca Stead is a Newbery winning author. Thinking that writing was "impractical" she became a lawyer. I LOVE her advice on using parentheticals. You can read more about it on her website (HERE).

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