Monday, July 1, 2013
Review: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Liar & Spy is the long-awaited follow-up to When You Reach Me (which I loved). Set in present-day Brooklyn, it's about seventh-grader Georges (named after Georges Seurat) who has had to move from a house into an apartment after his dad lost his job. His mother is a nurse and works as much as she can.
Georges is bullied at school, not least because of his name; even though the 's' is silent he is often called gorgeous. The book opens with a science lesson and we hear about the taste-test that the class will have at some point - the teacher will give them a sample of a chemical which most people can taste but not all. There is an urban myth about those who cannot taste it - that they will find true love or die tragically - so there's a lot of anticipation.
In his new apartment block, Georges becomes friendly with a similarly aged boy called Safer and his younger sister Candy, and Safer and Georges form a Spy Club. Safer's demands on Georges become more and more morally questionable as they spy on the mysterious Mr X upstairs.
Initially, I though this was going to be a crime novel with the boys solving a mystery but it's not that at all. It's a snap-shot of Georges' life at a turning point - with his family circumstances drastically changed and the feared taste-test coming along; Georges has to make some decisions and take control of his life. He has been following his mum's philosophy of each short-lived moment being a small dot which makes up a whole - as in Seurat's paintings - but his dad reminds him that life is also what's happening now. Georges also has secrets, as does Safer and these are finally revealed leaving Liar & Spy ending on a much happier note than I'd been expecting. Can't wait to see what Rebecca Stead writes next.
Lira & Spy has been longlisted for the Guardian children's fiction prize 2013.