Back to School Giveaway: Liar and Spy

Back To School Giveaway Jen Ryland

It's nearly back to school time -- at least here in the U.S.
In honor of the season, I'm featuring a week of great middle grade and tween books.

Whether you're a parent, a teacher, a librarian or just young at heart, I hope you enjoy these great titles! You'll have new chances to enter each day, and one lucky winner will walk away with all these books/ARCs!

August 9:  Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

August 10: Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

August 11: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

August 13: In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz

August 16: The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin

August 17: The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

Today's feature:

Liar & Spy
by Rebecca Stead
Published by Random House
on August 7, 2012

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.  Read my review policy/disclosure here.

My summary: Georges-with-an-s, a Brooklyn seventh grader, faces bullies, his father's downsizing, and a friend's betrayal in this charming middle grade story. 

My take: When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead's 2009 Newbery award winning book, is one of my favorite middle grade books of all time -- a time travel mystery that pays homage to A Wrinkle in Time.  Like When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy is a beautifully nuanced story about the trials and tribulations of tweendom.

I love the fact that Liar & Spy delves into the emotional life of a thirteen year-old boy, who suffers the indignities of seventh grade with a stiff upper lip. Georges and his family have to move due to his father's job loss, and George meets Safer, a kid who lives in his new building. Safer convinces Georges to join his Spy Club, and soon Georges is skulking around the hallways, spying on Mr. X, one of the boys' neighbors.

George is also bullied at school, an issue which was deftly incorporated into the book. Rebecca Stead did a great job of showing how constant harassment can really wear on a child's psyche, and how the suggestions of well-meaning adults are often misguided.

While Liar & Spy doesn't have the same kind of tour-de-force, mind-bending plot as When You Reach Me, the story does have a few surprises up its sleeve. For me, the spy plot brought to mind another of my childhood favorites, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.

One of the things I find most impressive about Rebecca Stead's books is the fact that nothing -- no theme, no image, no scene -- is ever extraneous or insignificant. Liar & Spy weaves together art (Georges is named after the pointillist painter Seurat), science (his class is studying the senses), friendship and more in a way that seems effortless. 

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Note: I'll have very limited internet access over the next week, but I will read and respond to all comments when I'm back online!


  1. Just the title made me think of Harriet the Spy so I'm glad you mentioned that! As I said in my review, I was disappointed with the end and what was revealed but I agree that this book weaved everything together in a very impressive way, showing how everything had a point.

    1. I love Harriet the Spy so much! One year I dressed like her for Halloween!

  2. I just got this one through NG, I'm so glad to read your positive review, Jen! I haven't read When You Reach Me, but I'll def. be on the lookout for it now. And see, I didn't know that the main character was named after Georges Seurat, so Yay! for bonus art themes:)

    1. When You Reach Me is one of my absolute favorites! But I think you'll love the art themes in Liar & Spy!

  3. I need more middle grade books, so fabulous giveaway! This book sounds great - I love spy books.

    1. It was fun to read all these middle grade books!

  4. All of these sound really great!! I have The Sinister Sweetness, but not the others. Wishing Spell, In A Glass Grimmly, and The Spindlers are all books I really want to read. Liar and Spy sounds awesome too. I hadn't heard of it before.

  5. They were all really good and in future reviews I'll highlight some things I love about middle grade books'

  6. I've heard that When You Reach Me is really good, and Liar & Spy sounds good too! Very cool idea for a feature/giveaway! :)

  7. I love that this is a middle grade book and the MC is dealing with tough issues like bullying. More kids should be aware of such things happening to others and this book sounds like a great read to get the message across.

  8. I'm excited to read this; I love a good middle grade read. And I love that it's reminiscent of Harriet the Spy. Great review!

  9. What a great theme week! I'm so excited for the rest of your posts and I've really been wanting to read Liar and Spy so I was excited to see you feature it.


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