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Liar & Spy

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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.

Praise for Liar & Spy:

A Junior Library Guild Selection - A New York Times Bestseller - An Indie Bestseller - Kirkus Reviews starred review - Publishers Weekly starred review - The Horn Book starred review - School Library Journal starred review - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books starred review - Autumn 2012 Kids' Indie Next List -Nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults 2013 - Kirkus Reviews Best of Children's Books 2012 List - Publishers Weekly Best of Children's Fiction 2012 - School Library Journal Best of Children's Fiction 2012 List - The Horn Book 's Best of 2012 List -
Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2012 for Kids List - Amazon's Best of the Year, Middle Grade (3) - A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2012 - Holiday gift guides: Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, LA Times - NPR Outstanding "Backseat" Reads for Ages 9-14, NPR's Backseat Book Club - One of The Atlantic Wire's 25 favorite middle grade and young adult book covers of 2012 - The Wall Street Journal 's Best Children's Books of 2012 - The Chicago Public Library Best of the Best 2012 - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 2012 Blue Ribbons List

180 pages, Hardcover

First published August 7, 2012

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Rebecca Stead

17 books2,095 followers

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5 stars
7,143 (27%)
4 stars
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3 stars
6,593 (25%)
2 stars
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717 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,654 reviews
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,909 followers
August 19, 2012
This was such a treat, and I'm grateful to Random House for sending me a review copy. I liked this one better than When You Reach Me. I found it easier to follow and more entertaining.

The message in this story is subtle, and it's just as valuable for grown-ups as it is for youngsters. What Georges learns is that sometimes when people lie and misrepresent themselves, they do it out of fear and shame, not because they are bad people. And sometimes we lie to ourselves for the same reasons. The truth is just too scary or painful. If we let the truth come out, we just might find that people want to help us, not reject us.

Even if you care nothing at all about the message, the story is just plain fun to read. The plot is fairly basic. Rebecca Stead makes it fun, and funny, by including all the strange character traits and habits that make people memorable.

Georges has moved from a house he loves into an apartment he's not too thrilled about. He meets a new friend there named Safer, who ropes him into some activities he doesn't feel good about. Georges has to learn to stand up to Safer and say no. Meanwhile, he also learns to make a stand against the kids who pick on him at school.

I really enjoyed Georges as a narrator and character. He's one of those nerdy kids that grown-ups always like and peers always tease. He's smart, but he has an earnest cluelessness that sometimes made me laugh out loud.
Recommended for middle-grade readers of both sexes, and grown-ups, too.
Profile Image for Rachel Hartman.
Author 14 books3,820 followers
December 5, 2013
I have many librarian friends who raved endlessly about When You Reach Me, and then found Liar and Spy kind of a let-down afterwards. It was with this in mind that I decided I should read Liar and Spy first, to give it a chance NOT to disappoint me.

Boy, was I ever NOT disappointed.

In fact, I love this book with all my (admittedly shrivelled) heart. If When You Reach Me really is that much better... well, maybe I shouldn't read it. Maybe it would make me give up writing in despair.

A little caveat first: this book is very quiet and small. Very quiet. Very small. If you're not into quiet books, you can say to yourself, "Well, at least it's small!" You can read it in an afternoon, even if you are an abysmally slow reader like myself.

Here's where it's awesome: theme. Everything fits and interweaves and interplays so beautifully. It's like a Bach fugue -- a really quiet one. Not that the pipe organ lends itself to quiet. Even the simple fact that Georges's name has a silent "s" at the end resonates with the theme. It's about the known and the unknown, the things we can and can't, do and don't perceive. The lies we tell and the things we refuse to see. Even the title plays into that.

My god it's like a beautiful painting, and I could stare at it for hours. I am gnawing my own wrist with envy, which I realize is maybe not the cleverest thing I ever did.

Read it. Love it. I might not ever get around to When You Reach Me. I might not be able to handle it. We shall see.
Profile Image for Blaine.
749 reviews611 followers
March 16, 2022
Life is a million different dots making one gigantic picture. And maybe the big picture is nice, maybe it’s amazing, but if you’re standing with your face pressed up against a bunch of black dots, it’s really hard to tell.

Mom. She always says to look at the big picture. How all of the little things don't matter in the long run…. I know that Mom is right about the big picture. But Dad is right too: Life is really just a bunch of nows, one after the other. The dots matter.
I absolutely loved Rebecca Stead’s Newbery Award-winning novel When You Reach Me. So when I needed to read a middle-grade novel for a reading challenge this year, I decided to read Liar & Spy.

When his father loses his job, seventh grader Georges and his family moves into a new Brooklyn apartment. There, Georges meets Safer, a homeschooled 12-year-old who runs a spy club with his younger sister, Candy. They are determined to uncover the secrets of Mr. X, the man always dressed in black who lives in the apartment above Georges. Georges is being bullied in school, and becomes friends with Safer, but when Safer begins to take their spying too far, Georges is unsure what to do.

There are some nice lessons here about friendship and bullying. But—and please know I’m fully aware that it’s completely ridiculous to be an adult criticizing a book written for a middle-grade audience—Liar & Spy was pretty slow, the surprises weren’t very surprising, and the story ends rather oddly. It’s an ok kids’ book, but not a special one. When You Reach Me was so good that I went into this book with real expectations, and was left a bit disappointed.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,761 reviews1,218 followers
September 22, 2012
Oh, how I’d have loved this one at ages 9 and 10, and if my life had been slightly different at 11, 12, and 13 too, and even then I still would have loved it, as I do now. I didn’t like it as much as When You Reach Me, but since that made both my favorites and favorite-time-travel-books shelves, that isn’t surprising.

4 ½ stars

I almost gave it only 4 stars. I found one thing at the end great, though not surprising, but one other thing I found anti-climactic and, for me, almost boring, definitely disappointing. That goes for me now, and me from 11 on. I don’t think most readers will feel disappointed though. (Sorry to be so cryptic but saying anything more would be a spoiler.)

In most ways I think this is a brilliant children’s novel. This author has a remarkable talent for creating fascinating characters and engaging situations, and she is a wonderful storyteller.

I love the quirky characters, how NYC is made to feel like a small town, how big personal issues are put out there, and how readers’ intelligence is not at all insulted. I adore the humor (Sir Ott and Candy’s candies and so much more) and I really enjoyed the Blue Team and Bob and Candy and so many of the characters, including the narrator.

Thoughtful kids will really appreciate this one, I think.

I am impressed with how both kids and adults are shown as complex people, and how so many of them are off beat and unconventional is so many ways, yet how relatable and recognizable they are.

Gosh, I like this author. I just officially became a fan (I can’t believe I wasn’t before now) and I must get to her first novel First Light sooner rather than later.

Perfect novel for: (huge spoilers/suggest you don't read if you haven't read the book):
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 3 books186 followers
May 17, 2012
Rebecca Stead's books are like an onion--as the layers are peeled away and the characters reveal their secrets, the reader is left with a shiny nugget of essential truth. In this case, the truth is that pretending only keeps sadness at bay for so long. Seventh grader Georges is pretending that it's okay that his dad got laid off and his family had to sell their house and move to an apartment in Brooklyn. He's pretending that the school bullies that make fun of his name aren't really hurting his feelings. But most of all, he's pretending that he doesn't miss his mom (at least, not that much) who must work extra nursing shifts at the hospital to make up for his dad losing his job. But Georges is not the only one pretending. Safer, his new neighbor, is a homeschooled amateur spy who is also doing some heavy-duty pretending. The unusual friendship they forge, steeped in secrecy and sweetened by Safer's hilarious little sister Candy, will force both boys to stop pretending and face the truth about their hopes and fears.

Wild parrots, Scrabble tiles and Giant Swee-Tarts are just a few of the little details that season Stead's story and make this read so unique. As someone who feels like she had read the same 5 books over and over, this book is a treat in that it continued to surprise me as I peeled away the layers. Stead is also incredibly adept at showing the secret lives of children, which any twelve year old could tell you are completely separate from the lives of adults and come with their own set of complicated emotional vocabulary. Stead is like an accomplished spy in the House of Kids, spinning complex, quietly powerful stories from what she observes there. And I for one am very grateful for her powerful binoculars! An absolute must-read. Fantastic.
Profile Image for Paul  Hankins.
770 reviews277 followers
May 1, 2012
No spoilers here, but fans of WHEN YOU REACH ME will appreciate the references Stead makes within the story that can lead to conversations outside of the text to include art, popular culture, and the joy of the time-honored classic Scrabble. Extensive conversations about taste buds invite a cross-content area reading and research opportunity.

With WHEN YOU REACH ME, Rebecca Stead is "stead"-ily becoming the M. Night Syamalan of middle grade literature. Everyone will want to know how a science experiment will turn out for the main character, Georges. . .

. . .and by the end of the book, you'll wonder who was playing it "safer. . ." the characters IN the book or the reader HOLDING the book bracing for what they think they might know early on in the reading.
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,750 followers
August 30, 2012
Rebecca Stead is the M. Night Shyamalan of children's literature, and I mean that in a good Sixth Sense way, not a lame The Happening one. It's funny, but when I try to compare her other authors I find myself tongue-tied. Who else spends as much time on setting up and knocking down expectations in such a surefire manner? Now Ms. Stead has created the most dreaded of all books: The one you write after you've won a major award. Which is to say, she won a Newbery Medal for When You Reach Me and now comes her next book Liar & Spy. Like all beloved authors who don't follow up their hits with sequels, Ms. Stead is contending with some critics who expected more science fiction. Instead, what they're getting is a jolt of realistic fiction housed in a story that feels like nothing so much as Rear Window meets Harriet the Spy. Though opinions on it vary widely, in the end I think it's safe to call this a fun novel with a secret twist and a strong, good heart. Who could ask for anything more?

Don't call him Gorgeous. Georges has had to live with his uniquely spelled name all his life (gee THANKS, namesake Georges Seurat) and it's never been anything but a pain. You know what else is a pain? Moving from your awesome home where you had a loft made out of a real fire escape to an apartment with an unemployed dad and an absentee albeit loving mom. When Georges meets the similarly oddly named kid Safer in the new apartment building he becomes enmeshed in the boy's spy club. Is there someone up to no good in the complex? How far will the boys go to learn the truth? As things escalate and George finds himself facing fears he didn't even know he could have, he discovers that everything in his life boils down to this question: when it comes to his relationship with Safer, who really is the liar and who really is the spy?

If a book has a twist to its ending but you don't know that a twist will be coming in the first place, is it a spoiler to mention the fact in a review? I'm counting on the answer to that question to be no since I'd like to talk about the twist a tad. As an adult reader of a children's book text I did pick up on the fact that throughout the book adults kept looking at Georges in a concerned way. I think it's fair to say that an intelligent kid with a good eye for detail might also notice as well. Would they think it weird that these looks aren't explained or would they just write it off as the author's literary fancy? I haven't a clue. All I really know at this point is that for probably 96% of the child readership of this book, the ending is going to come flying at them from out of nowhere. In all likelihood.

I've had a lot of debates with adults about this novel and it's funny how diverse the opinions of it range. Some folks think it's a natural continuation of When You Reach Me. Others take issue with Stead's use of geography or pacing. But the sticking point that comes up the most when people discuss this book is the fact that Georges is a boy. For a some readers, it isn't until a good chunk of the story has passed that they suddenly realize that the voice they've been hearing is a boy's voice and not a girl's. For some, the shock is too much and they deem the speaker to be an inauthentic take on how guys talk. Stead is the mother of two boys, as I recall, so they are not (to cop a phrase) "unknown quantities" to her. Anyway, for my part this was not the problem that it's proved to be for some readers. I was more concerned about the nature of the taste test. In this book Georges has a science class where a taste-related test will determine whether or not he's an outcast for good. I loved how the test fit in within the context of the greater story. What I couldn't quite feel was Georges' dread of this test. It's described in such a blasé matter-of-fact way early on that when we are told that he worries about the test it's just that. We're told how he feels. We don't feel how he feels. It's a fine line.

That said, when it comes right down to it Stead's writing is stellar. She fills the book with these little insights and conjectures that could only come from a unique brain. I love it when kids speculate about weird things in books, so Georges' thoughts about his dad as a boy are just great, particularly when he says, "I wonder whether Dad and I would have been friends, or if he would have been friends with Dallas Llewellyn, or Carter Dixon, or what. It's kind of a bummer to think your own dad might have been someone who called you Gorgeous." Similarly I was very fond of the characters in this book. Safer was a perfect noir hero, complete with backstory and shady intentions. And seriously, how can you resist a kid that keeps insisting that he's drinking coffee from his flask? Minor characters are just as interesting too. Bob English, a classmate of Georges, is a redeemed class freak along the lines of Dwight from The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. I'm a sucker for that kind of creation.

Unlike her previous novel When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy is set firmly in the 21st century. In an era of helicopter parenting, this book got me to wonder whether or not the economic downturn would create an abundance of latchkey children with parents who work more and more jobs to make ends meet. If so, we may see more characters like Georges free to wander the streets while their parental units exist in absence. Something to chew on. Regardless, the book has engendered a lot of discussion and undoubtedly folks will continue to talk about it and debate it for years to come. The best way to summarize it? It's about an unreliable narrator who meets an unreliable narrator. It's also fun. And that, really, is all you need to say about that.

For ages 9-12.
Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,901 reviews197 followers
May 13, 2018
Rebecca Stead’s Liar & Spy proves a very different book than her more famous Newbery Award-winning When You Reach Me, but it is, in some ways, even more engrossing, with its own twists and turns.

Georges — our hero is named after the pointillist Georges Seurat — finds his word turned upside-down. With his father’s loss of his job, the family sell their house in Brooklyn and move into a nearby apartment. Mom Sara, a nurse, has to take double shifts to make ends meet, while dad Martin tries to launch his own business. Georges’ old friend Jason has moved on to cooler friends, including bullies Dallas Llewellyn and Carter Dixon. Georges’ life seems one unhappy mess.

Until he meets Safer, an odd, homeschooled boy who lives in the same apartment house. Safer and his sister Candy spend their time spying on their neighbors, especially the eternally black-clad Mr. X, who lives one floor above Georges. Against his will, Georges gets drawn into this thrilling espionage. To tell any more would be to ruin this book’s surprise denouement, but I thoroughly enjoyed every thrilling moment in what, ironically, proves a very thoughtful book.
Profile Image for Destinee.
1,586 reviews143 followers
September 27, 2012
The theme I took away from this book is the difference between seeing the little dots and seeing the big picture. It was very cleverly explored in lots of ways: Georges Seurat's painting, how to deal with bullies, differences in the perspectives of Georges and Safer, an almost out of nowhere plot twist, and finally the dots on the hands (which is only a cryptic spoiler).

Rebecca Stead again writes with heart, curiosity, and intelligence. For me, this book lacked the wow factor of When You Reach Me, but it was still a great read. I had a small qualm with Safer's family being overly quirky, but that's really just my exhaustion with super quirky characters. I also never really bought in to the whole spying on the man in black plot. It never grabbed me, but it definitely has the potential to grab young readers.

Profile Image for Tara.
170 reviews3 followers
September 2, 2021
After reading When You Reach Me, this was underwhelming. While the writing was interesting, I felt like it was trying to hard to be more like WYRM--using those conventions without a true commitment. Every character seemed on the verge of being interesting, but none were given enough to make them really stand out. I guess the reader was supposed to be living under the same pretense that Georges was about his mother, but it's hard to do that when there is no real relationship between the two. Scrabble tiles aside, I didn't miss her. So, when the end comes, and we find out where she's been...it really doesn't matter. Similarly, I didn't get any great connection between Georges and his father or the burgeoning relationship between him and Safer. Everything seemed a little hesitant. The best and truest character moments were Georges knock knock joke through the intercom and the description of the dogs when Safer leaves the yard. Those two made me smile and showed the strength of character that Stead normally delivers. If you love Stead, it's worth a read, but for me, it was missing the magic.
Profile Image for Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy).
2,545 reviews706 followers
July 16, 2012
Wow! I will need to take a break before picking up another book. This is one of those books that leaves an emotional imprint on you that you just want to feel for awhile and not have other things crowd in or change the mood.
Profile Image for Tami.
558 reviews6 followers
November 24, 2012
I LOVED this book! This is one of those rare books in which the ending is elevated beyond simply satisfying the plot. It brings the reader to an entirely new level of insight with Georges, the main character.

I appreciated the depth of development in Georges' character: his affinity for Georges Seurat's work (the 19th-century French artist for whom he is named)--especially pointillisme, his determination to look beyond the unpleasant treatment he receives at school at the hands of bullies, his loneliness, his distinct values of honesty and kindness, his technique of watching America's Funniest Videos to take himself out of a depressed space are all vivid, effective characteristics which give the reader a fully formed impression of who Georges is. Each of these characteristics binds the reader a little closer to Georges as we see shades of our fears in him, each element causing us to willingly invest more of ourselves in Georges and his story.

When Georges and his family are forced--due to finances--to sell a house they love and move to an apartment building nearby Georges meets Safer, a boy his own age who also lives in the apartment building with his parents, brother and sister.

Georges and Safer--with intermittent interruptions from Safer's younger sister, Candy--are engaged in "spying" on Mr. X. Mr. X is another resident of the building who Safer claims to have been observing for some time. A man who dresses in black and carries a lot of large suitcases back and forth, Mr. X is the object of their reconnaissance missions and their various suspicions.

Events at school with a couple of bullies are also accelerating for Georges. As these come to a head Georges has a breakthrough in his surveillance surrounding Mr. X. This revelation causes Georges to call everything in his life into question.

Small lies and huge lies, those that are harmless and those that have the potential to change the course of Georges' life all come spilling out for the stunned reader. The depth and breadth of the lies others tell Georges and those he tells himself converge for him in a shattering moment. The resolution going forward from this moment is more than satisfying for Georges and for the reader.

This book could be an excellent read-aloud--although I will caution parents & teachers that there are 2 brief moments where a mild cuss word is used (personally, I would just skip over it in a read-aloud situation since the absence of the word itself detracts nothing from the story--it's used in a bully scene and many others can be substituted).

Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me won the 2010 Newberry Medal but as far as I'm concerned, Liar & Spy FAR outstrips that work in content and accessibility to its readers. THIS one deserves a Newberry!
Profile Image for Travis.
Author 3 books40 followers
June 11, 2012
Some authors can write a career’s worth of books and never quite nail the intangible element of mood. Not so with Newbery-winning author Rebecca Stead. Her new novel, the much-anticipated Liar & Spy is simmering with an “Is everything as it seems?” atmosphere. It’s sophisticated yet grounded, mysterious, and includes a surprise ending that will cause readers to rethink the whole operation.

Georges is in the midst of upheaval at school and at home. His friend has abandoned him for the popular crowd (see also: jerks) in their seventh grade class. His father recently lost his job, forcing the family to move to a new apartment in Brooklyn. And to top it off, Georges’s mom, a nurse, is always at the hospital. Georges forges a unique friendship with homeschooler Safer, whose hobby of spying on neighbors is as odd as it is intriguing. The tension mounts when Safer enlists Georges to snoop on suspicious neighbor Mr. X, and at school “The Science Unit of Destiny” promises true love or tragic death.

From Georges dry wit to the deftly woven story threads, there’s a lot of skill on display here. Stead seems to pull inspiration from everywhere in creating this story – including the Hitchcock classic Rear Window.

The conclusion features a twist – two actually – that will make the reader to reassess the entire story. At different points in the book, I found myself questioning the believability of small things. I mean, seriously, could Safer really use a credit card to open a locked door? But patience paid off as the conclusion brought a satisfying dose of clarity, easing my quibbles.

Georges’s world is relatively small, magnifying the importance of subtle interactions. Stead understands that in order to do great things, you have to trust your audience. Although it’s consistently engaging, Liar & Spy is a bit of a slow burn – a fact that may turn off some young readers, but will make it a more rewarding read for others.

With memorable characters, an intriguing story, and one heck of a mood, Liar & Spy is another impressive effort from an author who excels at the unexpected.
Profile Image for Steph Su.
949 reviews452 followers
July 26, 2012
Rebecca Stead, whose previous book, When You Reach Me, I loved (and, apparently, so did a lot of other people, as it won the Newbery), is back with another middle grade novel, LIAR & SPY. Different in feel and content from When You Reach Me, it nevertheless pays homage to the intelligence and subtleties possible for middle grade literature.

Georges and other characters of LIAR & SPY are fairly average in terms of memorability, but wicked smart in terms of intelligence for characters their age. It’s not every day you get to read a middle-grade novel that involve the attempted English spelling reform movement and the umami taste (that’s the one that recognizes delicious or savory foods). Knowledge can come whenever and wherever, in all forms, as Rebecca Stead proves over and over again.

Safer’s suspicious and passive-aggressive behavior did get on my nerves pretty quickly, as they did Georges’, but the characters’ insecurities, actions, and feelings are all very genuine to the physical and emotional turmoil of middle school. And, as always, Stead writes a killer of an ending, one that nearly singlehandedly bumped my rating of this book up a whole star. Alas, the rest of LIAR & SPY didn’t capture my affections the way When You Reach Me did—the pacing was slower and the characters not as easily likable. Nevertheless, despite the lack of emotional connection on my part, it is a touching and impressive work of literature that fans of middle grade and young adult literature alike should consider reading.
Profile Image for Karina.
823 reviews
August 16, 2018
3.5 Stars It was a super fast read. Read it from Denver to Moab, Utah (5 hr ride) Was a cute story. Plot was a little bland but it wasn't boring. The characters had funny names. I really like how Rebecca Stead makes these teenaged characters that handle their problems smartly without resorting to drugs or suicide when they can't take ppl making fun of them. It's reassuring that not all books are downers full of weak character life building lessons.
Profile Image for Gauri.
240 reviews6 followers
February 7, 2017
A short book about the concept of one's own power to change your circumstances, but portrayed through realistic fiction to a much subtler extent. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I were in middle school.
Profile Image for Hirondelle.
909 reviews184 followers
April 25, 2022
Seurat´s paintings as inspiration for a young adult (middle grade?) novel about 12 year old neighbors in Brooklyn dealing with anxiety and bullying and building new friendships. Lots of layers here, Seurat is an explicit theme, scenes next to each other, seemingly random but making a whole, a blue dot next to a red dot making it look purple from a distance - fantastically interesting and well done (in a book for children!). And it's got heart, I love the kids, their feelings, how they learn to process their feelings. It has a few surprises, on the theme of game playing, lying, deception as self-soothing tool. Very very good.

But preventing me from clicking on 5 full stars, I did not love it as much as When You Reach Me and this was perhaps a bit artificial. Not the setup, weirdly (ambitious but it worked for me) but the adults being somehow being too perfect contrasting with the explicit "true" imperfection of the kids' feelings. For example Georges' father contextualizing like some kind of therapist . There is also this kind of trope very common in children's book, the very happy eccentric bohemian family as a kind of foil, a lever for adventure and growth - but again it felt a bit artificial to me, a bit too perfect. The teachers were fantastic, but I am not quibbling with THAT because they were a lot of fun to read about.

Incidentally I am from a place where all front doors lock automatically, no handles on outside doors (well, maybe on the countryside and kitchen backdoors) and can only be opened with a key or from the inside. It is so completely eccentric, so unbelievable to me, this whole setup of front doors just open like that inside a building! A real life cultural difference I would not believe if not from reading lots of books (this is important for some mystery novel plots). I wonder how they adapt, translate books where this is a plot point...
Profile Image for Melody.
2,629 reviews261 followers
August 21, 2012
I am not as over the moon about this one as my friends all seem to be, in fact, I didn't like it very much at all. It took me fully 3/4 of the book to become even modestly engaged with the characters. I get the messages, I liked the writing, but it struck me as, well, as boring as The Westing Game. I twigged to a major plot point early enough that the reveal was anticlimactic. I though Safer's goofy family was a little too, too. I was interested at how enabling they were, and I think that struck me as totally unrealistic. I'm giving it 3 stars on the strength of the prose rather than the plot. I think Stead's voice is bell-like in its clarity, and I'll read whatever she writes next.

Profile Image for Monica Edinger.
Author 10 books336 followers
July 26, 2012
From my forthcoming starred Horn Book review as quoted here:

“Stead’s spare and elegant prose, compassionate insight into the lives of young people, wry sense of humor, deft plotting, and ability to present complex ideas in an accessible and intriguing way make this much more than a mystery with a twist.”
Profile Image for Tim Federle.
Author 20 books694 followers
October 6, 2012
I just. This. Guys, this book.

Read in one airplane ride. The flight attendant asked if I had lost somebody I loved in an accident.


Please read this book.
Profile Image for GraceAnne.
658 reviews54 followers
November 2, 2012
I don't think I can find enough phrases for this book, which is short, profound, funny, witty, true, kind of scary, and has terrifyingly real children in it.
It takes place in Brooklyn. It has terrific parents in it. It has layers of puzzle and mystery. It's a great read.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,985 followers
August 6, 2012
In Middle Grade, books about young boys having a hard time at home and/or at school are a dime a dozen and as such it is imperative that new books with this particular storyline offer something unique to the reader.

Well, LOOK NO FURTHER, for Liar & Spy is one such book.

Georges (with a silent s, his parent’s wanted to pay homage to their favourite painter Georges Seurat) is having a hard time. At home, his father was lay-off his job as an architect and the family had to move to a new, smaller place whilst he struggles to find new clients as a freelance architect. His mother, a nurse, had to take on double shifts and he barely sees her (they communicate via scrabble messages left on his desk overnight). At school, his former best friend Jason now sits on the popular table and simply watches as Georges is harassed by the school’s bullies. There is also the ongoing Science Unit of Destiny and in ten days, Georges’ Science classmates will find out which of them is destined to have a Tragic Death or to find True Love. Georges is convinced it is going to be him.

Things start to look up – well, sort of – when Georges meets his new neighbours, the siblings Safer and Candy (two home-schooled kids whose parents let them pick their own names) and join their Spy Club in their ongoing investigation on their sinister neighbour (who may or may not be a serial killer).

Liar & Spy is a brilliant book. It is clever, subtle, funny and deeply affecting. It features a plethora of great characters (which includes its setting, Brooklyn) from adults to kids alike (good lord, how I loved Candy); it features great interactions between Georges and his parents or Candy/Safer and their parents. It is a book that features serious issues (bullying, psychological problems, fear of loss, economical stress) without being a book about issues. It also features a language revolution as thought-out by a kid, lessons about the science of taste, Seurat’s painting techniques (which are also metaphors to life) AND keen observations of the ridiculousness of middle grade school’s cliques – all of it without a trace of didacticism.

I also loved how it explores two different outlooks on how to cope with bullying:

I shrug. “It’s just dumb stuff. You know, kids being kids. I know none of it will matter in a few years.”

He stares at me. “Who told you that?”

“Mom. She always says to look at the big picture. How all of the little things don’t matter in the long run.”

He blinks. “But they matter now, Georges. They matter a lot. What were you planning to do, just hold your breath all the way through middle school?”

“No. No one can hold their breath that long.”

“Look, I know mom talks about the big picture. She wants you to remember that you will find new friends, that life is always changing, sometimes in really good ways. But life is also what’s happening now, Georges. What Dallas and Carter are doing is happening now, and you can’t just wait for it to be over. We have to do something about it. Now. “

It’s weird, because I know mom is right about the big picture. But Dad is right too: Life is really just a bunch of nows, one after the other.

The dots matter.

Although, in fairness when you think of it, the resolution of George’s problems with bullying perhaps do come by too easily – but it is hard to criticize when said resolution is done with such aplomb.

Not to mention that it also features one of the most hilarious moments I have ever had the pleasure to read in a book: when one of the characters describes the moment when, as a young child, he realises that animals turn into food – cows are meat, pigs are pork – but chickens? Chicken is chickens. Excuse me while I giggle like a maniac. It is still funny after a few days. What can I say? Perhaps I am easily amused.

But I am not so easily moved and despite the apparent kookiness of the plot, Liar & Spy is a deeply moving story.

Plus it comes with two twists that are written cleverly into the story without being gimmicky Shazam moments. Once you realise what they are, it is easy to go back and realise they were obvious all along. This seems to be a Rebecca Stead thing as well: clever narrative choices.

To borrow from the book’s recurrent conversation about the Science of Taste- Liar & Spy is an absolutely delicious book, cementing Rebecca Stead’s place as a favourite author. A notable read of 2012.
Profile Image for Barb Middleton.
1,690 reviews124 followers
August 12, 2012
What a master of plot twists! Stead can take seemingly unrelated events and weave them into a surprising, unpredictable story with kooky and engaging characters. Seventh grader Georges has just moved, his dad has lost his job, and his best friend has decided to hang with the cool kids. Georges deals with it in his own way and starts to make new friends at school and in his new home at an apartment building in New York. His dad is an architect who writes in perfectly even block letters which they teach in architecture school. I laughed hard at that. My dad and brother are architects and write in perfectly even block letters. I tried to copy them but could never eliminate my loopy letters. They are perfect and I'm loopy. But I digress.

For Georges nothing is quite as it seems. Safer, a boy he meets in the apartment who is his age, likes to live on the edge, sneaking into other peoples apartments, spying on neighbors, and watching parrots nesting. Candy looks like she's 7-years-old, but she doesn't sound like one. Pigeon, the older brother, is hated by Safer for going to school instead of being home-schooled with Safer and Candy.The teacher's are idiots who seem to know what they are doing with students. They aren't so great at controlling bullies however. Dallas has pegged Georges as his victim to bully. When Georges discovers the lies that surround him, he has to decide if he should confront the hidden truths.

The beginning uses changing relationships, as well as, Georges parents moving and losing a job to add tension. Stead does a great job painting tension with conciseness and descriptive language, I'm hearing a sound. It's a funny, high-pitched buzzing that I think maybe I've been hearing for a while, without noticing. There should be a word for that, when you hear something and simultaneously realize that its been swimming in your brain for five minutes without your permission. This takes on a whole different meaning by the end of the story when George decides to face the truth. Stead is one of the few authors that I read and want to turn around and reread the book immediately so I can see the clues I missed the first time around.

The humor in the story is sprinkled throughout from the Seurat painting that Georges calls Sir-Ott to Candy who is addicted to candy. She tells Georges she is going to marry someone who likes orange candy, because she hates it, and that way her partner will eat only the orange candy and she'll get the rest. Speaking of Sir-Ott, I have had funny conversations with 5th graders reminiscing about words they mixed up when they were younger. One thought her brother was going to See Attel versus Seattle. Which brings me to my next point. When I read as an adult sometimes I can interfere with the joy of the story. Take for instance, Candy. I found myself annoyed because Georges said she was about 7-years-old but she never sounded like one. And being a putz at details I thought he said she was 7-years-old. She was using words beyond a 1st graders vocabulary such as "seasonal" or "human being" and I was surprised that Stead, who is so brilliant with details, could miss this fact. I wrote in my reading journal to Get Over It because Candy is a fun character and I much prefer her in the story sounding too old than not in it at all (and kids are not going to notice the vocabulary as high). So I moved on. Then, I get to page 95 and Candy tells Georges shes 10-years-old. Ha! Jokes on me. Count on Stead to create a character who is not what she seems.

I did think some of the tension dribbles slightly in the middle part of the story, such as when Georges and Safer are staring at the screen of the front lobby. It ties in with the end and is necessary to the plot but I did lose my focus a tad. (I am somewhat hyper.)The story ends with a bang so if you are an impatient reader, stick with it, because it is a winner.
Profile Image for Ela.
701 reviews52 followers
April 29, 2014
"You're a very important part of this case, you know."
" I am? "
" You are."
"Because you live in the apartment right below him."
"Below who?"
"Below Mr.X."

Without sounded too melodramatic, this book has restored my faith in middle grade fiction to a certain extent.

I've been getting rather sick of pretentious pre-teen stories but thankfully this book is incredibly modest. The simple story and realistically quirky children were a welcome break from dead serious protagonists and Pippi Longstocking wannabees.

I thought the only way i could possibly enjoy this book was if it turned out to be much darker than the blurb suggested, but I was pleased and surpirsed to read a story that sticks unashamedly to its status as middle grade fiction whilst maintaining a nagging story line. There was depth to the plot and the characters but Rebbeca Stead didn't overdo this to the point that it drowned any of the characters human characteristics, making them completely unlikable.

All in all, I had no positive expectations for this book but I was pleasantly surprised. A quick, enjoyable story about children dealing with change, life and games. It deserves its place on the frenetic Shortllist 2014.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,653 followers
August 15, 2012
This is a fun YA mystery. It's the story of 12-year-old Georges (the S is silent), who is dealing with a lot of stuff: His dad lost his job, his mom is always working, his best friend has abandoned him for the cool kids at school (who have been tormenting Georges) and now his family has to move into a smaller apartment.

Luckily Georges makes a new friend in a boy named Safer and they form a spy club to keep tabs on suspicious people in the building. Hijinks and school drama ensue, but Georges is smart and comes up with a plan to help him and his pals.

This is the second Rebecca Stead book I've read; the other was the remarkable "When You Reach Me," which is a love note to another beloved children's book, "A Wrinkle in Time." Stead is a first-rate children's author, and I recommend "Liar & Spy" to anyone who had an oddball friend in school (or even if you were the oddball).
Profile Image for Jon.
599 reviews626 followers
November 4, 2012
Find this review @ Scott Reads It
Liar & Spy really surprised me in every single way. First of all, I usually don't read middle-school books at all because they don't interest me like YA novels do. Second, I don't usually read realistic fiction because in my opinion reality is too ordinary and boring to read about. I went against my reader instinct when I picked up Liar & Spy but I'm happy I did.

I really would like to thank Random House for providing me with an advanced reader copy, in exchange for an honest review. Liar & Spy exceeded my expectations! Liar & Spy is at the surface, a children's book but it's so much more. This is a book that people of all ages can enjoy even stubborn teens like me.

Liar & Spy is a fantastic and realistic tale that takes place in the borough of Brooklyn. Our hero Georges has moved into a new apartment building where he meets Safer, a twelve year old spy. Safer casts Georges into a fun and dangerous world of spies. Their assignment to investigate the mysterious Mr. X.

Rebecca Stead created a fast, fun and interesting adventure. All the characters and dialogue were so witty and uniquely crafted. Stead wrote an unique book that readers will cherish and won't forget any time soon. I felt like I really could relate to all the characters because they were so down to earth. The characters dealt with real-life problems that people actually face on a daily basis.

Liar & Spy is a story about conquering your fears, growing up, and facing problems. There are just so many lessons in this book that readers should part with. Even if this book doesn't seem like your thing I suggest you try it. I really loved Stead's writing style so I decided to get When You Reach Me and I am ready to read it soon.

If you want to read a smart, witty, and fun book what are you waiting for?
Profile Image for Sara.
434 reviews3 followers
March 12, 2015
When You Reach Me is one of my favorite books of all time, so I 1. was super excited to read this, and 2. had really high expectations.

This was a very good book, but the combination of my high expectations and love for Stead's previous book made me rate this at a "just okay". Rebecca Stead is really good at some things, and this book is no exception. Those things are:

1. Creating realistic and fascinating child characters who are real, complete people.
2. Well-done, realistic family dynamics.
3. Setting -- she knows New York and how it feels like the back of her hand.

However, I kind of felt about this book how I felt about M. Night Shyamalan's movies after The Sixth Sense. I know that sounds weird -- lemme explain. When The Sixth Sense had an amazing twist at the end (in addition to being a really well done story with good characters and scary moments), and was very well received, his thought was, "Well, I guess I have to do that twist thing in every movie!" Unfortunately, the "twist" thing isn't really Shyamalan's strength. His strength is story telling and character and style. And this is Rebecca Stead's strength too.

When You Reach Me had that "twist" feeling in it, that everything falling together and making sense in the end feeling. And she felt like she had to do it again, and she didn't NEED to. She just needed to tell her characters' story. It just seemed like it was trying to hard to have that "everything comes together" feeling, when all it needed was to be true to Safer and Georges and their friendship.

I will definitely continue to read her books, just like I am one of the few people who still watched M. Night Shyamalan movies (until they got REALLY bad). I love her style, her stories, and her characters.
Profile Image for Lana.
36 reviews3 followers
August 28, 2017
🎶 Smooth Criminal🎶 Okay, sorry that song was stuck in my head while I was reading this book. For some reason it reminded me of Michael Jackson. Moving on..... Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead was a book that was,... well.... interesting, I guess? It was good, I really liked the characters, the setting and the mood. I finished the book in 24 hrs because of its gripping plot. Anyway, we will start with the... Characters, I really liked them. I liked Georges ( the S is silent) , I loved Candy, and I loved Safer, I guess? The taste test was... interesting. It added a whole new story to the plot. I'm not a huge fan of the HUGE plot twist at the end. And if you know it, the book is ruined for you. That was the only thing that I did not like about the novel. I mean, it was doing fine. Safer and Georges, friends and whatever, that want to find out more about this suspicious man.
Lana: 'Hmm... I've seen this before but please, continue.' They break into his apartment everyday.
Lana: *twiddling nervously with her thumbs* ( Did I just make a song references? 2 songs in one review!) (SPOILER) Georges finds out the "Suspicious man" is a fake, and that Safer made the whole thing up just to make sure Georges is a loyal friend.
Lana (monster voice)- 'Oh yes I've seen this before!' *Throws book at the wall* So anyway, this book disappointed me BIG TIME. I loved it, I was into it, but, WOW, regret!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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