MIDDLE GRADE REVIEW: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

by Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books, 2012
ISBN: 9780385737432
Middle Grade Contemporary
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from copy borrowed from library.


When seventh grader Georges (the S is silent) moves into a Brooklyn apartment building, he meets Safer, a twelve-year-old coffee-drinking loner and 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: how far is too far to go for your only friend?


I read Stead's When You Reach Me when it came out, just before it won the Newbery Medal. I liked it, but I didn't love it.  So I figured going in to this one that I would probably like it but not love it.  I was wrong. I loved it. I'm not sure if it was the characters, Georges and Safer their families or if it was the plot revolving around spying on one's neighbors and lying to one's family/friends, but I strongly suspect that I just loved the book as a whole.  With a beautiful combination of character development and plot movement I found myself really interested in reading about Georges and his struggles with moving, bullies, and a new friend he doesn't 'get.'  Stead also throws in a plot twist that I really did not see coming that really changed the way I saw the book and the story as a whole.  It left me stunned and thoughtful.  In my mind I went back and thought about the way Georges had been acting and how things turned out to be very different than I thought.  It made me think about the way humans jump to conclusions so easily and so very often turn out to be wrong.  I found this a beautifully written and surprisingly complex story despite what originally seemed like a fairly straight-forward plot.  I really liked the writing. For me a well-written book is a book where the writing flows so smoothly that I pay little attention to it because I am so engrossed in the story. Liar & Spy is one of those books.


  1. Wow, it sounds like a great book. Rebecca Stead really intrigues me so I am going to pop it onto my to-read on Goodreads, thanks for the review. Cheers Julie

  2. As someone typically immersed in MG fantasy, I don't usually read contemporary. But I recently finished this one, and I agree with Heidi 100%! The writing is very smooth, and that plot twist? Whoa. Definitely a book that can be enjoyed by a wide range of readers.

  3. Hi there! Stopping by from the Kid Lit Blog #6! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow! That is one glowing review and coupled with Ilana's comment, I'm putting this one on my TBR list. Thanks for co-hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop once again Heidi! :D

  5. Glad to know the book is engrossing! Sounds like a fun read. Thanks for hooking up to the Kid Lit Blog Hop.

  6. Sounds like a great book. We used to live in an apartment building in Brooklyn so I think the setting alone would grab me.

  7. Thank you, Heidi! This looks like one I have to read - thank you for creating the suspense!

  8. Fantastic question (How far is too far to go for your only friend?) Sounds like peer pressure is another aspect of this book. Talking about bullying is so important, especially now that we have so many examples of how terribly it can affect everyone. Thank you for the review, and thank you for hosting, Heidi!


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