Liar and Spy

Liar and Spy

by Rebecca Stead


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The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of the Newbery Medal winner When You Reach Me: a story about spies, games, and friendship.
The first day Georges (the S is silent) moves into a new Brooklyn apartment, he sees a sign taped to a door in the basement: SPY CLUB MEETING—TODAY!
That’s how he meets his twelve-year-old neigh­bor Safer. He and Georges quickly become allies—and fellow spies. Their assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer’s requests become more and more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: how far is too far to go for your only friend?
“Will touch the hearts of kids and adults alike.” —NPR
Winner of the Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction
Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and more!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375850875
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 08/06/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 58,360
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile: 670L (what's this?)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

REBECCA STEAD is the author of When You Reach Me, which was a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Newbery Medal and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Fiction, and Liar & Spy, which was also a New York Times bestseller, won the Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction, and was on multiple state master lists and best of the year lists. Her most recent book, Goodbye Stranger, was a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book for Fiction and a New York Times bestseller. She is also the author of First Light, which was nominated for many state awards. She lives in New York City with her family. Visit her online at

Read an Excerpt

The Science Unit of Destiny

There's this totally false map of the human tongue. It's supposed to show where we taste different things, like salty on the side of the tongue, sweet in the front, bitter in the back. Some guy drew it a hundred years ago, and people have been forcing kids to memorize it ever since.

But it's wrong—all wrong. As in, not even the slightest bit right. It turns out that our taste buds are all alike, they can taste everything, and they're all over the place. Mr. Landau, seventh-grade science teacher, has unrolled a beaten-up poster of the ignorant tongue map, and he's explaining about how people have misunderstood the science of taste since the beginning of time.

Everyone in my class, even Bob English Who Draws, is paying attention today, because this is the first day of "How We Taste," also known as The Science Unit of Destiny. They all believe that sometime in the next ten school days, at least one person in the room is going to discover his or her own personal fate: true love or tragic death.

Yes, those are the only two choices.

Bob English Who Draws is really named Robert English. Back in fourth grade, our teacher, Ms. Diamatis, started calling him Bob English Who Draws because he was always zoning out and doodling with a superfine Sharpie. Ms. Diamatis would say, "Bob English Who Draws, can you please take us through the eights?" It was her job to make sure no one got out of fourth grade without lightning-fast multiplication skills. And everyone has called him that ever since.

While the rest of the class is hanging on every syllable that comes out of Mr. Landau's mouth, I'm looking at the false tongue poster and I'm kind of wishing it wasn't wrong. There's something nice about those thick black arrows: sour here, salty there, like there's a right place for everything. Instead of the total confusion the human tongue actually turns out to be.

People, People

It's Friday afternoon, last period. Gym. Ms. Warner and I have done our Friday high five. We do it every week, because I hate school and she hates work, and we both live for Friday.

We're playing volleyball, with an exclamation point. Ms. Warner has written it on the whiteboard outside the gym doors: Volleyball!

The combination of seeing that word and breathing the smell of the first floor, which is the smell of the cafeteria after lunch, creates some kind of echo in my head, like a faraway shout.

In the morning, the cafeteria smells fried and sweet, like fish sticks and cookies. But after lunch, it's different. There's more kid sweat and garbage mixed in, I guess. Or maybe it's just that, after lunch, the cafeteria doesn't have the smell of things to come. It's the smell of what has been.


Ms. Warner is at the net with her hands on her knees, calling stuff out to kids and smiling like crazy. "Shazam!" she yells when Eliza Donan gives the ball a halfhearted bump with her forearm. "Sweet shot!"

If you didn't know Ms. Warner, you'd think there's no place she'd rather be. Maybe she's trying out my mom's famous theory that if you smile for no reason at all you will actually start to feel happy. Mom's always telling me to smile and hoping I'll turn into a smiley person, which, to be honest, is kind of annoying. But I know she's extra-sensitive about me ever since she and Dad made their big announcement that we had to sell our house. She even recorded a bunch of America's Funniest Home Videos for me to watch: my smile therapy.

I tell Mom to please save her miracle cures for the hospital. She's a nurse in the intensive-care ward, where she has to check on her patients every fifteen minutes. It's a hard habit to break, I guess, all that checking. I've been watching the shows, though, and they do make me laugh. How can you not laugh at America's Funniest Home Videos? All those wacky animals. All that falling down.

I count the number of rotations we have left in "Volleyball!" before it's my serve and then glance at the huge clock in its protective cage on the wall. I calculate a fifty-fifty chance that the dismissal bell will save me, but the next thing I know I'm in that back corner, balancing the ball on one palm and getting ready to slap it with the other.

Don't look at the ball.

Point your eyes where you want the ball to go.

But the advice in my head is useless, because time slows down until everyone's voices transform into something that sounds like underwater whale-singing.

Well, obviously "underwater," I tell myself. Where else are you going to find whales?

I should be paying attention to the ball.

Just as I'm about to smack it, I get this feeling, this premonition, that I'm going to land the ball at least somewhere on the other side of the net, maybe even in that big hole in the second row where Mandy and Gabe are being careful not to stand too close because they secretly like each other.

I'm wrong, though. The ball goes high, falls short, and hits the floor between the feet of Dallas Llewellyn, who is standing right in front of me. My serve is what is called an epic fail, and some of the girls start doing the slow clap.






It's sarcastic clapping. You know that famous philosophical question "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Well, I have no idea, but it has to be better than the slow clap.

Ms. Warner is yelling "People! People!" like she always does when kids are mean and she has no idea what to do about it.

Dallas hands me the ball for my second try and I hit it right away, just to get it over with. This time it goes way left, out of bounds. Then the bell rings, kids fly in all directions, and the week is over.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

School Library Journal Best of Children's Books 2012

Publishers Weekly Best of Children's Books 2012

Kirkus Reviews Best of Children's Books 2012

Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2012:
“Readers will sympathize with Georges and Safer as they negotiate various familiar obstacles, but it’s the celebration that will leave them exultant.”

Starred Review, School Library Journal, September 2012:
“The ending twists readers’ entire perception of the events and creates a brilliant conclusion to an insightful novel.”

Starred Review, The Horn Book, September/October, 2012:
“Stead’s spare and elegant prose, compassionate insight into the lives of young people, wry sense of humor, deft plotting, and ability to present complex ideas in an accessible and intriguing way make this much more than a mystery with a twist.”

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 11, 2012:
“Chock-full of fascinating characters and intelligent questions, this is as close to perfect as middle-grade novels come.”

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2012:
“[A] big-hearted, delightfully quirky tale…. Georges resolves his various issues in a way that’s both ingenious and organic to the story….Original and winning”

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Liar and Spy 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
ClearGlass More than 1 year ago
This book pulls you right in. And keeps you reading... Rebecca Stead includes just the right type of mysterious characters and modern day issues. The hero of the story is easily related to by many kids today. You will love the ending. I highly recommend this for classroom reading, because it offers a lot of opportunities for interesting classroom discussion in the areas of Social Studies and Character Ed.
GeoLibrarian More than 1 year ago
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.
AnthonyNY More than 1 year ago
Very good book, I loved it a lot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rebecca Stead is an amazing author. The book is always better than the summary says
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My daughter read this for her Children's Literature class. She enjoyed it so much,she insisted I read it as well. It was a fast paced read that touched on issues that many children go through; bullying, cliques, loneliness. It was all done with a slight hand. It was a wonderful book, and I'd recommend it to any pre-adolescent, and their parents as a way to open up conversation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book. Unexpected ending. But still awesome book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing. Its amazing. Like Harry Potter the author is able to pull you straight into the book. Here is a reveiw: 7th grader georges is having a rough time. They moved out of their house into an apartment.hes mum is working extra shifts. Hes best friend left him. But he meets a strange boy named Safer and his world gets a happier turn. Pleas read tthis book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i read liar and spy and most people like but i read it for summer reading and the summary of the story sounded good but then when i read it i really did not like it to me there was just not enough action in it it did not get to the point of the book till the end and to me it was not a mystery and i like to read mysteries so to me it was a little boring but if you like books with not alot of action then to me it is the perfect book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! There's a major twist at the end which nobody would expect. If you think the book looks good, I would say definitely give it a try if you are in 7th grade or younger.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was amazing. Left you on the edge of your seat the whole time you read the book. It was also funny in spots!
choirgal04 More than 1 year ago
This novel was an absolute delight! I loved the clear, sensitive voice with which Rebecca Stead (Newbery author of the marvelous When You Reach Me) speaks through each of these young characters, especially Georges. Full of humor, courage, and surprises, this is a refreshing & satisfying story I am so enthused to recommend. I can't praise enough the imaginative gift of this author; and, while I would love to hear more from Georges & his friends, part of the wonderful charm of this novel is the author's restraint in not packaging it as the first in yet another cookie-cutter "series of the month." Umami! (read the book; you'll get it.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amzing book and well written! You have to read this! A Virginia tech fan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of my fav. books I have read with and without my reading teacher in school. Its the best book to read.
stephxsu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Georges (the S is silent; yes, his parents are crazy Seurat fans) is just an ordinary boy, slightly north of nerdy, who¿s trying to survive seventh grade. Then, in his new apartment building, he meets Safer, a boy his own age, and gets pulled into Safer¿s strange spy games. But as Safer¿s games get stranger and stranger, Georges has to decide where to draw the line between fantasy and reality¿both within himself and without.Rebecca Stead, whose previous book, When You Reach Me, I loved (and, apparently, so did a lot of other people, as it won the Newbery), is back with another middle grade novel, LIAR & SPY. Different in feel and content from When You Reach Me, it nevertheless pays homage to the intelligence and subtleties possible for middle grade literature.Georges and other characters of LIAR & SPY are fairly average in terms of memorability, but wicked smart in terms of intelligence for characters their age. It¿s not every day you get to read a middle-grade novel that involve the attempted English spelling reform movement and the umami taste (that¿s the one that recognizes delicious or savory foods). Knowledge can come whenever and wherever, in all forms, as Rebecca Stead proves over and over again.Safer¿s suspicious and passive-aggressive behavior did get on my nerves pretty quickly, as they did Georges¿, but the characters¿ insecurities, actions, and feelings are all very genuine to the physical and emotional turmoil of middle school. And, as always, Stead writes a killer of an ending, one that nearly singlehandedly bumped my rating of this book up a whole star. Alas, the rest of LIAR & SPY didn¿t capture my affections the way When You Reach Me did¿the pacing was slower and the characters not as easily likable. Nevertheless, despite the lack of emotional connection on my part, it is a touching and impressive work of literature that fans of middle grade and young adult literature alike should consider reading.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was already a fan of Rebecca Stead after her beautiful book, When You Reach Me. So when I saw Liar & Spy was coming out, I knew it would be something special. My assumption was not wrong.This little book reminded me of playing pretend, of dealing with bullies, of forging new friendships and dealing with change. With a quiet, leading voice, Rebecca takes her main character Georges (the S is silent) and leads the reader through a story filled with such small ups and downs that the ride seems like it's going nowhere until the destination hits you and realization dawns. I don't know how else to describe this journey.Filled with surprises, revelations, and most of all, lessons about the importance of community and fellowship with other people - which includes the openness of mind to accept them, this is a middle-grade novel that, I suspect, will be knocking on the door of another award.If you have middle-graders or contact to middle-graders, please recommend this book. It has such a story to tell and lessons to teach - but manages to be understanding and not preachy about those lessons. Most of all - it's fun. I mean, what kid doesn't imagine being in a spy club of sorts?
TheJeanette on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was such a treat, and I'm grateful to Random House for sending me a review copy. I liked this one better than When You Reach Me. I found it easier to follow and more entertaining.The message in this story is subtle, and it's just as valuable for grown-ups as it is for youngsters. What Georges learns is that sometimes when people lie and misrepresent themselves, they do it out of fear and shame, not because they are bad people. And sometimes we lie to ourselves for the same reasons. The truth is just too scary or painful. If we let the truth come out, we just might find that people want to help us, not reject us.Even if you care nothing at all about the message, the story is just plain fun to read. The plot is fairly basic. Rebecca Stead makes it fun, and funny, by including all the strange character traits and habits that make people memorable.Georges has moved from a house he loves into an apartment he's not too thrilled about. He meets a new friend there named Safer, who ropes him into some activities he doesn't feel good about. Georges has to learn to stand up to Safer and say no. Meanwhile, he also learns to make a stand against the kids who pick on him at school.I really enjoyed Georges as a narrator and character. He's one of those nerdy kids that grown-ups always like and peers always tease. He's smart, but he has an earnest cluelessness that sometimes made me laugh out loud.Recommended for middle-grade readers of both sexes, and grown-ups, too.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Georges doesn't have many friends, but when he moves to a new apartment in his Brooklyn neighborhood he meets Safer, an odd kid with a passion for espionage and a secret mission. As Georges and Safer spy on the black-wearing mysterious Mr. X, Georges also deals with relentless teasing from some of the kids at school and missing his mom who has been working double shifts since his dad got laid off. This is solid middle-grade contemporary fiction and it will find many fans. It's a nice follow-up to Stead's Newbery-winning When You Reach Me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And that cat And is cat And how cat And to cat And keep cat And idiot cat And busy cat And for cat And fifteen cat And minuetes cat Now read this second letter in each line only
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is worth zero stars. I fell asleep while reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Super good story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Suprising ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont like liar and spy beacaus it is very odd