Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead(4 out of 5)
Another book that proves I need to read more children’s books for the year 8-12 range. I won this months ago, and like the other gems I’ve recently unearthed, I wonder why it takes me so long to pick up children’s books. I should be reading them more. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, not as much as I enjoyed her When You Reach Me, but it was still a pretty entertaining read.
Georges(the “S” is silent, although his classmates love to torture him by pronouncing and mis-pronouncing it) has just moved from his long-time home to the big city, into an apartment building, with his dad and workaholic(or so you believe, until the end of the book) mother. This is quite an adjustment for Georges. The period of adjustment is made easier by the discovery of a note on the wall in the basement of the apartment building. The note reads “Spy Club”. Georges’ father writes down “What time?”. Georges goes down to take more garbage down, 20 minutes later, and the note has been answered: 1:30. Georges just HAS to see what this is about. He meets Candy, a young girl who overdoses on candy on a regular basis(yes, despite of, or maybe because of, her name). She introduces him to her brother, the “head” of the “Spy Club”, Safer. Safer’s somewhat of a loner, speaking in code and chugging COFFEE out of a FLASK(If Safer were a female, that would’ve been me at 11). Safer’s fixated on a guy who lives in the apartment above, always wearing black and bringing in mysterious heavy suitcases. Of course, Georges is in. He also begins to ask many questions – such as- what’s with the children’s names(espicially after the introduction of the oldest brother Pigeon, who’s in and out in an angsty cloud through much of the book)? Why don’t the kids attend public school, as he does? Why does he rarely see their parents? Why are the kid’s so fixated on a nest of parrots living on the roof of the building across the street? So many questions, and in time, it all gets tied together. Georges has his hands full at school, fending off the bullies who torment him on a daily basis. To get through that, he focuses on the Spy Club. He tries, unsuccessfully, to not focus on his absent mother and how much he and his father miss her.
One of the things I really enjoyed throughout this book is the great relationship between Georges and his father. There’s no BS, no pretentiousness, just a straight-up close father and son. I really do not read many books like that in these days and times. That was refreshing. I also like how the writing never got stale, and it’s funny. The kids are kooky, and there are no apologies or excuses- they just are. There are a number of things going on, and there’s resolution on all of them. A lot of books I’ve read lately have been left wide open with a number of loose ends, so anytime a book wraps up all those threads, I’m going to give it even more of a high five. The only thing that disappointed me? I feel like there may have been more going on with Georges’ mother, and we don’t get the whole diagnosis, but you’re led to believe from the final scene that the book ended well and she was on the road to recovery. That’s enough for me. And it was such a short book. That’s really the only complaints I had. A quick, refreshingly, funny read.