If you've read When You Reach Me (and if you haven't, what are you waiting for? Don't let its Newberry Medal turn you off!), you know that Rebecca Stead doesn't write ordinary books. I would compare her brain to Meg Rosoff's, or Ellen Raskin's: twisty, tricky, off-the-wall. You need to read Stead's books twice.
Liar & Spy is firmly set in a contemporary urban world: school and apartment building. Kid with mostly absent but loving parents. Quirky apartment inhabitants. Stressful school situation. New friend who's kind of weird, but in a good way. It's familiar middle-grade territory, but Stead does very different things with it.
I loved the character of Georges (named after the painter Seurat. The 's' is silent, as he tires of explaining to people.). He's not particularly smart or funny or compassionate or anything--he's a pretty ordinary kid. But he's not, of course. I love his new friends, Safer and Candy and their unusual family. I love the way Stead uses a taste test in science class to build all kinds of plot and theme threads.
There's nothing fantastical about the plot twist in Liar & Spy, but it's every bit as head spinning and heart breaking as the one in When You Reach Me. I cried. I laughed. It was great.
Yes, there's a bullying sub-plot, and I loved the way she handled it. (I cried again. Happy tears.)
Liar & Spy is fun and readable on a first read and has lots of layers to reward a reread. Apple strudel, I think, with a crispy, flaky crust and tangy sweet apple filling.
Shannon Messenger's blog to find out what all the other Middle Grade Monday bloggers are excited about this week.