Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Liar & Spy
Wendy Lamb Books
Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I thought the cover and the blurb for this book looked cute so I requested it. I didn't realize this the author of When You Reach Me (it is written in rather small font on the cover photo) and I haven't read that any way so I did not enter this book with any expectations.
Our main character is Georges (named after George Seurat, the painter of the very famous pointillist masterpiece "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette".) He is undergoing some big changes as his family has moved to a new apartment because his father lost his job. Meanwhile he never sees his mother because she has been at the hospital, picking up every double shift that she can. In this new apartment building, Georges meets Safer, part of an eccentric family (how eccentric? The parents waited until the kids were about two and then named them based on their personalities.) Safer is the resident spy and he recruits Georges to spy on their neighbors. At school Georges deals with bullies and negotiating his way through middle school.
For the most part, this is a pretty quiet contemporary story with not much action (although there are some suspenseful moments when Georges and Safer put their investigative skills to the test). One of my favorite elements was the mention of the reform spelling movement (of which Theodore Roosevelt was a proponent) from one of Georges' classmates in some funny scenes. I also enjoyed seeing Georges navigate the rocky waters of school and implement an excellent plan for handling his problems there.
As I read though, I thought, "This is pleasant enough but how is this book going to wow me?" Well, it turns out that it will have a twist that makes you go back and rethink many of the passages that came before. I can see this twist was included (I don't want to be spoilery about it but for the right reader, it could be very emotional) but I found it to be cheap and manipulative, leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth. I think there could have been a bit more work done to prep the reader.
Overall: A heartwarming story except for the little matter of the aforementioned spoiler.
Cover: I love this cover-I think it's really cute and appropriate for the story.