Word Spelunking

Liar & Spy - Rebecca Stead 4.5/5 StarsRebecca Stead's MG book Liar & Spy is one of those books that I went into expecting one thing and got something completely different; which, in this case, is a very good thing. What I got was an utterly charming read with surprising poignancy.Middle-schooler Georges (the s is silent) has had a tough few months; after his father loses his job, Georges' family must sell their house and move into a Brooklyn apartment, his mother must work crazy hours at her nursing job at the hospital and the school cool-guy/bully, Dallas, decides Georges is his favorite victim. When Georges follows a mysterious flyer for a spy club and he meets the unusual Safer, he becomes a new spy recruit. Happy to have a friend again, Georges goes along with Safer's plan to spy on the mysterious and potentially dangerous Mr. X, but when their spying goes too far Georges begins to question whether their friendship is worth the risk. Liar & Spy has such wonderful layers! At under 200 pages, this is a short, quick read, but it packs in a great deal of humor, heart and unexpected depth. Stead has created a moving, honest and relatable contemporary story that feels both very "right now" and timeless.What I love most about this book are the compelling characters. The MC Georges is such a fantastic and well-developed character. Stead has given him such a raw, relatable and captivating voice that, at times, squeezed my heart and had me laughing out loud in the span of a single page. There's a thoughtful insightful-ness to him that is both charming and profound. Georges life and situation is one that many young readers will easily relate to. Safer is a genuinely intriguing character; he isn't always easy to like, but he's impossible to ignore. There's such depth and dimension to this unusual boy and, like Georges, even when Safer suggested or did something that I knew was absurd and wrong, I was simply unable to resist him. One of my favorite characters is Safer's little sister, Candy. She simply shines with her wit, sassiness and delightful personality. I really loved the eccentricity of Safer's whole unconventional, bohemian like family. There are a few different subplots going on in this book and Stead weaves them together seamlessly. Georges and Safer's escapades as spies are full of fun mystery and thrilling missions. Younger readers will enjoy the sheer excitement of their adventures, while older readers will appreciate the subtle, yet powerful and profound, underlying story being told. Georges situation at school, dealing with bullies, is very well written. Stead explores Georges bully situation in a way that always feels real and honest and never over the top. And there's a group of ragtag misfits and outcasts that Georges brings together that I just adored.The story leads to an unexpected revelation that took my breath away, but ends on a happy note. I finished this book with such a warm, hopeful feeling in my heart.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Liar & Spy is both fun and exquisitely thought-provoking, witty and full of depth, heartbreaking and heartwarming. An excellent read!

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