Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: Liar & Spy

Liar & Spy
By Rebecca Stead
Published 2012 by Wendy Lamb Books

Georges and his family have just moved into a new apartment and life is not particularly easy. When he meets Safer, another resident of the building, he becomes his newest spy recruit. Soon Georges and Safer are on the trail of the mysterious Mr. X. But everything is not as it seems...or is it?

Here is where I admit another truth about myself: I had decidedly mixed feelings about When You Reach Me, one of Stead's previous novels and winner of the Newbery Medal. Because one of her previous books had won a medal, Liar & Spy, her latest, received a lot of award buzz when it was released last year. Despite my best attempts to read it before the Youth Media Awards were announced, I didn't. I did, however, still want to read it - I wanted to know if I would have a better experience with this title than I did with her previous book.

The answer? Well, I feel much the same way as I did after finishing When You Reach Me, except perhaps not as strongly. I said in my Goodreads review of WYRM, "I sort of liked it, and I sort of didn't." That's probably a pretty accurate summation of my feelings regarding this book as well, except I feel slightly more positive about this one. As much as I hate to say it, I can't help but wonder if Stead's books are just over my head. With the general gushing about both Liar & Spy and When You Reach Me, it makes me feel like there must be a fault within me if I'm not enjoying the books and admiring all the craftiness contained within them. I feel like I "get" this one more clearly, and I am impressed by the layers of metaphor that Stead manages to cram into a novel that doesn't even reach 200 pages. Similarly, I felt a stronger connection with Georges and Safer in this title than with Miranda and Sal. Additionally, I just liked the plot of this one much better. A lot of the time in When You Reach Me I felt as if there wasn't really much happening. At least there is some action in this title. I really enjoyed the ending of this - it brought to light all the layers of the plot that had previously been resting just below the surface. This would be a great book for a discussion group, with children or adults - there is so much to talk about, so many themes to explore.

I guess my final ruling is that I'm impressed with Stead's ability as a writer and I can admire her books from that level, but they are not the kind of books I normally enjoy.

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