Search on SLJ.com ....
Subscribe to SLJ
Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Liar & Spy

There’s this totally false map of the human tongue.  It’s supposed to show stead 201x300 Liar & Spywhere 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.

So begins LIAR & SPY, Rebecca Stead’s strong follow-up to her Newbery Medal-winning WHEN YOU REACH ME.  I think this one is even better, but then I never warmed up to WHEN YOU REACH ME the way that many others did.

The last line of Monica Edinger’s Horn Book review nicely sums up most of the book’s strengths: “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.”

Basically, every single literary element in this book is distinguished and several rise to the level of most distinguished.  Since I am a plot-driven reader, it probably comes as no surprise that I would choose to single that one out for special attention here.

I appreciate the double mystery of this novel, the layering of the various puzzles and clues.  In a year with some strongly plotted fiction, say SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS and THREE TIMES LUCKY, I think this one is executed as well as any of them.  The pacing here is much brisker, but none of the remaining literary elements suffer in comparison to those novels because of it.  And you know I gotta love that.

Still, I wonder if this is this really the best middle grade fiction out there this year.  Are we simply drawn to it because of WHEN YOU REACH ME’s halo effect?  Are there other equally well written books that just don’t have the buzz and the reviews?  Does LIAR & SPY “feel” like a Newbery book?

I’m itching to reread this one to see if it can climb past BOMB, MOONBIRD, and NO CRYSTAL STAIR, but as it is, it’s still a top five sort of book for me.

share save 171 16 Liar & Spy
Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the County Schools Librarian at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at hunt_yellow@yahoo.com

Comments

  1. Wendy says:

    I don’t think this would have gotten as much attention if it weren’t for WYRM; that’s driven the readership. I feel pretty sure that I would have loved it either way, and if anything I think in many minds this book is suffering in comparison. Even though a lot of fantasy-inclined people were grumpy about the fantasy elements in WYRM somehow not being “done right”, it seems like a lot of fantasy-inclined people are disappointed that this is a straight fiction. Then some people who didn’t like the time travel element have greeted this one with relief. It’s kind of frustrating how much comparisons to WYRM have dominated the discussions and reviews of this book.

    I think it is incredibly rich, especially considering how short it is (in comparison to many other books). Reason tells me it must be very carefully plotted, but it never reads as the author trying too hard, or trying at all.

    A couple of my dearest friends weren’t into this book at all, and civility has kept us from delving into that too much, so I look forward to hearing from people here who won’t hold back.

  2. Nina Lindsay says:

    Here’s one that in my top “group” (I’m not sure exactly how many are up there now) that might be the least *personally* compelling of all my favorites. Meaning that I’m not sure that I cared about the characters or plot as much as I did in the meat of S&G, No Crystal Stair, Moonbird, Ivan… except that when I was READING it, I did, because of the quality of the voice and setting. Make any sense? Stead is a remarkable writer at the sentence level, and creates environment and emotion that are so palpable you believe you are there. Since you are there: you care. That’s distinguished writing.

    If I don’t find the characters make a personal difference to me in my outside-of-the-book life, (whereas, yes, oddly, Parsifal does), I’m not sure that matters. I’m not the intended reader; and I believe that for the right reader of this book, their mental reality is enriched by it.

  3. Erin says:

    I enjoyed this book, but didn’t feel like it was anything that stood out to me as exceptional. I don’t know if it was because I was expecting a story that was more along the lines of Stead’s first 2 books, which this is totally in a whole different world. Maybe it was because I listened to it rather than reading. I keep seeing it pop up on lists and wondering if I should read it again and see if I missed something everyone else is seeing.

  4. Mark Flowers says:

    Count me as one who was also a bit cold on WYRM (though I do intend to go back and reread it one of these days) but totally blown away by this one. So, the halo effect had nothing to do with my appreciation for it. I think it is by far the best written MG novel this year (of those that I’ve read), in terms of pure prose style – sentence and paragraph level writing. At first I was unsure of how I felt about the double-whammy ending, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more it grows on me. I’ve still got BOMB at number 1 on my personal list, but this is hands down number 2.

  5. TeenReader says:

    I didn’t love this one. I wonder if I was so excited for the twist that I was bound to be let down. I thought it did have many distinguised elements, but ultimately less then the sum of its parts.

  6. Brandy says:

    I am another person who didn’t love WYRM, but was blown away by this one. WYRM may have caused the original interest in this one, but there is certainly no halo effect causing me to love it. It did that all by itself. Yes, every element of the book is done well. The plotting (including the pacing) is perfect, Georges voice is wonderful, all the characters have such great personalities, and the setting is vivid. And she did all of that in just 200 pages.

  7. Brandy says:

    My head-cold-induced-haze made me forget to mention the quality I liked best which was the delineation of theme. I felt like the treat of bullying was far more realistic and done with a lighter touch than in WONDER. I also liked the way she made both Georges and Safer face their fears, but didn’t have them both come to complete terms with them.

  8. While I often chaff at the rule that doesn’t allow the committee to consider a body of work or previous books in a series, in this case I’m very glad the book is not going to be openly considered alongside other works by the author. I write “openly” as the reality is that committee members who have read previous works are not going to simply shut off their background info — we are all informed by our own reading histories after all and I think it is problematic not to recognize that. And then get past it. To focus only on the work in question and no other. It can be a challenge, but one the committee members have to take on.

    And so, in this forum which is, after all, a Mock Newbery where we attempt to follow the guidelines the committee follows, I would argue that we all need to consciously set aside our opinions about WYRM when considering this new work just as the real committee will have to.

  9. I should say I’m not seeing the comments here focusing on Liar & Spy versus WYRM (other than the “halo effect”), but elsewhere I’ve seen an awful lot of that.

  10. Eric says:

    To echo what Brandy said in her second comment, I too really appreciated that Stead did not have her characters completely change. I love that at the end of the book Safer still isn’t ready to go to school (and maybe never will be). One of my pet peeves is when characters that I relate to make completely unrelatable transformations. Kuddos to Ms. Stead for allowing Safer to continue playing it safe.
    I was a huge fan of WYRM and after a second reading of L&S I am a huge fan of this one too. The expert plotting, the strong characters, the absolute lack of pandering, the way Stead is able to use so few words to so strongly convey a sense of place all come through even stronger on the reread. I encourage you to give this a quick reread to fully appreciate the subtly of the author’s craft. The top fiction title for children this year.

  11. Robin says:

    I’m probably in the minority, but I didn’t really enjoy When You Reach Me. Yes, I thought it was brilliant, and I was very impressed with it, but no, I didn’t particularly like it.

    Liar and Spy, on the other hand was that wonderful combination of both – I enjoyed it throughout AND thought it was brilliant. And I have to confess that after When You Reach Me, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if I hadn’t been able to get it on NetGalley. But, because I was able to, I’ve now purchased multiple copies for our library.

    One of the issues I have with how the Newbery and Printz are awarded is that they often go to an author’s first or second book. And with good reason, I know. Some of these books are brilliant and/or groundbreaking. But, often the author’s later books are MUCH better and end up in the background because “They’ve already won, we need to look at other people.” Which I also understand. There are multiple forces at work behind the awarding of these medals. No system is perfect.

  12. Wendy says:

    Oh, if only Peter Sieruta were still with us [I think for the dozenth time this fall]. I know he would have come up with a list of what percentage of the awards go to an author’s first or second book; my guess is that that’s inaccurate. I think it’s wishful thinking for people to claim that an author’s previous winning status is NEVER taken into account, but my guess is that you overstate it, Robin–certainly a committee member would never be caught dead saying “They’ve already won, we need to look at other people”. And it certainly can work in an author’s favor, too. Books by previous winners/honorees are pretty much automatically considered “in the running” by pundits. There’s not much chance that they’ll escape the committee’s notice.

    I agree with often an author’s Newbery isn’t awarded for his/her “best” book, but we can only see that in hindsight, and it all depends on what else came out that year. And then there’s the idea that “best” books are often, by their very nature, divisive ones.

    Actually I think Peter did do a post about this, or something similar, once, regarding first-time author/winner statistics. I’ll see if I can find it.

    We miss you, Peter.

  13. Robin, having been on it, I am confident that the Newbery Committee of any year will never dismiss an author’s later work because ““They’ve already won, we need to look at other people.” My year we gave an honor to Christopher Paul Curtis who had previous won an honor and the medal. In fact our other two honor books went to previous honor winners as well.

    Outside the room you can certainly compare an author’s book to others before and after, but those in the room cannot. When I reviewed Liar & Spy, while I did reference WYRM, my focus was on the new book in its entirety. And what I admired enormously was exactly what Jonathan quoted from my review.

    In thinking about the Newbery criteria I agree with those above who have noted the book’s excellence in “interpretation of the theme or concept.” The way bullying is presented and dealt with in the book is subtle and true. It connects for me powerful as another book I think is Newbery worthy, Jacqueline Woodson’s EACH KINDNESS. I applaud both authors for taking on this topic in new and fresh ways.

    The plot is clever and, while adults may have some previous experience to make them wonder what is up with the mother (at least I did) I wouldn’t imagine a child audience would and I love that.

    I think the characters are beautifully developed from Georges’ hangdogged sadness (sometimes made me think of a cartoon character with a constant cloud over his head) and then his way out of his difficulties, Safer and Candy, and the lovely secondary characters, notably Bob English Who Draws.

    The one reference I did make in my review to the previous book was with setting, something Stead does here so beautifully. I loved that candy store, the pizza place, and most of all the eccentric Chinese restaurant.

    And finally, style. No doubt Stead’s isnt’ for everyone, but I think her clear and wry sentences are spot on for the audience. Tight, crisp, and smart. She trust her readers to be as smart as her characters.

  14. Stead is one of my favorite authors writing today, adult or children’s, and WYRM is one of my all-time favorite books.

    I don’t feel like LIAR & SPY reaches the same dizzying heights as WYRM. LIAR has some moments that felt less than exceptional to me, like that bit that’s one of those scenes where everyone gets together and hatches a plan…except that the reader doesn’t get to know what the plan is, for no narrative reason other than to artificially induce some suspense. Small things like that, which may just be the difference between a very good book and an extraordinary one, but which do affect my estimation.

    I wouldn’t feel like the committee had missed the boat if LIAR & SPY wins, but I don’t think it’s quite as tightly-constructed and all-around distinguished as some of the other contenders this year. It does, however, probably have the best-done setting of any of this year’s books. Stead knows her NYC.

  15. Alys says:

    I liked this book. Can I nitpick for something that kept popping me out of the story? Georges’s repeated comments about what a strange name “Candy” is. It’s weird, he mentions at least twice (and I think more, but I don’t have the book here) that he’s surprised at the name, but never specifically comments about Pigeon or Safer other than the group “here’s a bunch of kids who won’t make fun of my name”. Yet Candy is a legitimate name. Growing up there were two girls named Candy in my class. Granted they were Candaces with a nickname, but if a girl told me her name was Candy it wouldn’t even blip on my radar. Kind of a ridiculous thing to complain about, I know, but it still annoyed me. And it says something about the book that such a minor quibble is one of the few things I didn’t like.

  16. Alys, but I see that as a contrast to kids always questioning Georges’ name. Are kids today named Candy? I haven’t come across one since I was a kid..er… in the 60s.

  17. I take that back. I do know one Candy, but she is in her forties.

  18. Mr. H says:

    I’ve been waiting for this one to get discussed . . .

    I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all actually. I found much of the language to be a bit pretentious and in the end, what bothered me most, was that NOTHING HAPPENED. So Georges was lying to himself and the reader because his mom was sick in the hospital? And in the end she’s back home and doing fine? Are we ever really lead to believe that her life was threatened? I wasn’t sure if I missed something, since she’s doing perfectly fine at the end of the book.

    To be fair, my biggest problem with the book might not be the book’s fault, but the marketing campaign. It was like when THE SIXTH SENSE was such a hit because NO ONE saw that one coming and then comes UNBREAKABLE and to get butts in the seats we have to promise another twist coming. I don’t think this one should have been sold that way, because the “twist” really wasn’t even a twist. Seriously, who didn’t notice while reading that the mother was never around?

    Stead’s language is in fact, spare and elegant, as Monica said, at times. But to answer Jonathan’s question “Why are we drawn to this?” I think the answer is most definitely because of WYRM. There’s no way of knowing obviously, but I can’t imagine a fevered fanbase for this book if WYRM would have never existed. It would have only been a “nice little” book that would maybe have a chance of sneaking in the discussion.

    I’m convinced that this book is a “front runner” on name, and name alone.

    Now give it to me! Where do I need to be more specific? Let me have it!

  19. Mr. H says:

    Another thing . . . Jonathan mentioned the puzzles and clues, but I didn’t really get that. I think what Sam said a little early is maybe the reason why. I know that I wanted to get to the end to confirm what I thought was going on, but I wasn’t really putting any puzzle pieces together regarding Safer and Mr. X because Safer wasn’t giving us enough to do that. He was coming up with his own plans off-stage and bringing Georges up to date on the spot. That left me a little unsettled when reading because I was constantly wondering what Safer was up to. What bothered me from the craft of writing, is exactly what Sam said, I felt like Stead chose to do this just to keep us in the dark.

    I suppose however, that that is how Georges would have felt and that was probably the point.

    I don’t know, I’m still trying to wrap my head around why I didn’t like this one. Could it be, subconsciously, that having LOVED WYRM, I was expected more? I felt like WYRM was Summer Blockbuster and this was Indie Art Fest . . . I usually like Indie Art Fest though, that’s what I don’t understand!

  20. Genevieve says:

    I loved this on a second read. On a first read, I liked it quite a bit, but did find myself comparing it to When You Reach Me (which is top 3 in my all-time list) and finding it lacking. When I gave it a second read, putting WYRM completely out of my mind and appreciating it for what it was, I thought it was terrific. The twist about the mother actually did catch me off guard, as Stead’s clues about her working double shifts at night, the father talking to her at the hospital, and the Scrabble tiles convinced me she was just always working nursing shifts. The writing was evocative and spare, the setting (not just NYC in general, but the apartment building, the Chinese restaurant and candy store, and the school) all seemed very true and very detailed, and the characters seemed like real 12-year-olds. The teachers were very well drawn, as were the other children.

    My tween who adored WYRM read this right after re-reading WYRM, and to my surprise, was completely taken with it. I thought he would find it a bit sleepy or lacking in action/stakes, but he read it in the mornings (when he usually catches up on last night’s sports) as well as at night, and thought it was excellent. He was completely surprised by the mother twist, and didn’t see through Safer all the way, though he thought something was up there (I figured something was wrong from the moment I read the Rear Window-inspired tale of the neighbor taking out body parts in suitcases, but the kiddo didn’t remember that from when he saw the movie a couple years ago.)

    Alys, according to Baby Name Voyager (an extremely thorough source), although Candace was big in girl names in the 60s-80s, it dropped precipitously in the 1990s and went completely off the top-1000 girl names list as of the mid-2000s (and was in the 800s and 900s in the early 2000s). No other name starting with Can- (Candice, Candy standing alone) has been in the top 1000 girl names from 2000 on. So it’s very unlikely that children today have met anyone named Candy (though they may have met an adult Candace who likely as an adult goes by her full name).

  21. Genevieve says:

    Also, Mr. H, the mother isn’t “perfectly fine” at the end of the book — she’s been recuperating at home and is only just going to her first day back at work, and is promising her family to take it easy.

  22. Eric says:

    the only students named Candy I’ve encountered have been students named Dulce that decide they want to go by Candy instead.

  23. Mr. H says:

    Genevieve, that could be a perfect example of why I need to reread. I’ve been bogged down with Masters reading that it could impact my comprehension fairly easily.

    Speaking more from my gut, I just felt like the ending was a bit contrived. And the weird thing is, I didn’t get this feeling from similar books like WALK TWO MOONS, or even last year’s A MONSTER CALLS. That being said, it kind of called into question the rest of the book for me.

  24. fairrosa says:

    Being on Newbery once and serving currently on this year’s Committee, I can assure everyone that the notion of “comparing the current title of a particular author to his/her past works” will NOT be allowed in the discussion room. And the idea that “the Committee will not award a previous winner simply because they have already won once” is too far from the truth to even warrant defending. What the Committee members are charged with and are HELD accountable for, very very strictly, is to read as many books each year and compare that year’s books against each other to discover the MOST distinguished titles: no more, and no less.

  25. Amy says:

    I really, really liked this one, but I have to say that for me it did not have the “Newbery feel,” as you put it. I also just finished “Wonder,” which I know is not in your list of top favorites, but I absolutely loved it.

  26. Kalen says:

    I liked this one, and would not be upset to see it recognized. But, like Mr. H, I thought the ending was a little contrived. I hadn’t noticed that the mom was never around – my own mom was a nurse working evenings (2pm-11pm) while I was working and living at home after college, so I really only saw her if she got up before I went to work or if I stayed up somewhat late. I just assumed his mom was working nights/doubles a lot, and sleeping when she wasn’t working. So to me, the twist felt unnecessary and somewhat tacked on, like Stead felt the need to elicit more sympathy for Georges.

    I also wasn’t excited by the characterization of Bob English Who Draws. His phonetic spelling, on top of the taste test/tongue map thing, seemed to be just another “interesting fact” to throw at the intended audience. Yes, that’s something kids that age would do or tell other people – I knew plenty of kids like that when I was that age – but it felt a little too thin as characterization in my mind.

  27. Betsy says:

    Oh, I wish I had time to read all the comments on this one. I, for one, LOVED this book and… unlike the rest of the planet, had not even read WYRM yet. (I have now–because I enjoyed L&S so much). So, I maintain that it stands on its own two feet.

    Plot? Check. Intricate and layered without feeling like it–love that. Love that all the little dots (ha ha ha….) were connected by the end even though I didn’t realize some of them needed to be connected.

    Characterization? Check. The interplay between the kids and the two family groups were brilliant. I loved the relationship with Georges and his mom that we watched behind the scenes as well as Georges’s growing understanding of and relationships with his dad and Safer.

    Theme? Check. Bullying–great treatment of this. Loss/being unsure of what’s going on–excellent. How many middle school kids feel this way even if they don’t have a parent seriously ill? What about those who’s parents have divorced? Or there’s some other loss in their lives?

    Etc.
    AND… perhaps most brilliantly of all in this age of inflated pagination, Ms. Stead kept this remarkable novel SHORT.

  28. Sheila Kelly Welch says:

    I liked this one although it’s not on my list for the Newbery. I enjoyed it as I was reading but have no interest in rereading it. I started guessing divorce and death and the mother’s real problem didn’t seem traumatic enough to warrant Georges’ reaction. I did appreciate the setting and the school scenes plus Bob English Who Draws was a good character. For me, the cleverness of the plot overwhelmed the story and prevented me from forming an emotional connection with the characters. I had a similar reaction (or lack of a reaction) to WYRM and A Monster Calls. Some books just feel too obviously designed for my taste, but I’m glad others love them. If we all had the same opinions, what a sorry world that would be.

  29. fairrosa says:

    I am thinking about “The Choice of Theme” (not words in the Terms and Criteria document) vs. “Interpretation of the theme or concept” (words in the Terms and Criteria document) these days. I don’t think the Terms charge the committee members to consider what “Themes” the books have — as in, I don’t think that we are to assign which particular “theme” more weight than others: “The War in Iraq” is not a “better” theme than “A Child’s Fear of Separation.” What the Committee members are charged with is HOW well the authors develop and support the themes and how well they present these themes to the readers.

    I also think reducing the theme of any book to a single word or concept (Liar and Spy’s theme is “bullying,” for example) does not leave enough room for further discussion of complex scenarios and richly layered ideas. At the end of the Terms and Criteria document, it says, “The award is not for didactic content or popularity.” This tells me to not judge any book by how “educational” or “important” I feel a book could be for the kids. The focus remains on examining the evidences of an author’s literary skills.

  30. Sondy says:

    I thought L&S was basically WYRM without the punch. I was simply not surprised by any of the revelations, and didn’t really think they qualified as a “twist.” Mind you, I didn’t foresee that Safer was lying, but somehow it was lacking in punch.

    That said, one thing Rebecca Stead does exceptionally well is create believable, realistic, and incredibly quirky kid characters. This is a good book. It’s well written. For me, it doesn’t rise above the pack.

    I was thinking more about Splendors & Glooms. I think part of why it came across as “boring” was how much she tells about the adults, that the kids don’t know. It destroys any sense of suspense. Although I didn’t guess how Parse lost his finger, I wasn’t even slightly surprised. We knew all along that Grisini and Cassandra had magic, and that Grisini was with Cassandra, so we weren’t the least bit surprised when he turned up. I think that was a flaw in plotting.

    Now, Rebecca Stead doesn’t do that. She keeps it from Georges’ perspective. But somehow I don’t feel a sense of danger about Georges’ Mom. Maybe because he doesn’t visit until his mom is better?

    In my case, the book definitely suffered in comparison to WYRM. The “twist” was practically nothing in comparison. In comparison with other books of the year? Maaaaybe. If I were on the committee, I’d give it another reading or two. She does write characters very well.

  31. Wendy says:

    This reminds me of way back when THE UNDERNEATH was up for consideration. There was so much discussion about how people look at the cover and expect one kind of book, and get cognitive dissonance when they read the book that’s there, and then fault the book for it.

    Any question of there being a “twist” in LIAR & SPY is marketing, no more, no less, and has nothing to do with the book.

  32. Mark Flowers says:

    Thank you Wendy – I’ve been trying to formulate my thoughts on the issue of the “twist” and you’ve put it better than I could have. I read the book super-early, and had not heard anything about the twist ending. I loved it from page one, and would have thought it was the best MG novel of the year even without the “twist” about the mother (the other “twist”, about Safer, was more important to the story, for me). I was surprised by the ending, but it wasn’t a matter of making or breaking the book. It was just something extra to think about.

    I really would prefer if we could stop talking about WYRM, but since various people have been comparing them, I’ll just say (very briefly) that I think FIRST LIGHT is better than either of the other two.

  33. DaNae says:

    I agree that all the criteria are present and accounted for, with interpretation of theme possibly being the strongest of all. With the opening paragraphs Jonathan shared misinformation is a given. Questioning “known” facts should put the readers on the alert, but it was easy to become engrossed in Geroges world and forget to question.

    I keep running into real world things like security cameras phonetic spelling and tastebuds, causing me to pause and try and remember where I’d just read about them. This book is packed with fun without feeling cluttered.

    Newbery Trivia: There was a time when a book could not win the medal if the author had previously won. I’m not sure the year that changed. 20 points to whoever can supply it.

  34. Alys says:

    Wikipedia says “In 1932 the committee felt it was important to encourage new authors in the field so a rule was made that an author who had already won a Newbery could only win again if the vote was unanimous. In 1958 the rule was felt unnecessary and was removed.”

    I award myself 10 points for finding information, but only ten because the only source is Wikipedia.

  35. DaNae says:

    Alys go ahead and take the full 20, just don’t spend them all on candy.

  36. Mark Flowers says:

    I just reread this one, and wanted to make a couple points:

    1) Sam said he disliked “that bit that’s one of those scenes where everyone gets together and hatches a plan…except that the reader doesn’t get to know what the plan is, for no narrative reason other than to artificially induce some suspense” I too completely hate that type of suspense-creation, but when I re-read the book I realized a) it lasts precisely 6 pages (some of which are largely white space), and b) Stead actually reveals the plan (by means of Bob English’s note) prior to it being carried out, which, for me at least, greatly mitigates the problem.

    2) Completely agree with what everyone had to say about Stead’s mastery of language and theme. Practically every line of the book seethes with extra meanings and ideas, once you know the ending – but it is never oppressive or un-subtle.

    Just an amazing book.

  37. Jess says:

    I thought this was excellent – to me, every layer of the story ended up feeling necessary, which feels rare in more bloated books. I didn’t have any preconceptions about the book – I’d read Stead’s other books, but hadn’t heard anything about the plot of this one. I wasn’t expecting a twist, which I think changes the way you read a book. When I’m looking for the twist in a story, it’s easy to be disappointed unless it’s amazing. Here, I could tell Safer wasn’t being entirely honest but I didn’t expect any twist with the mother. I agree with Wendy and Mark that marketing it as a ‘twist’ book has nothing to do with Newbery criteria.

  38. Mr. H says:

    To Wendy and Mark, I did say: “To be fair, my biggest problem with the book might not be the book’s fault, but the marketing campaign.”

    I acknowledge that and admit that it’s my own personal hurdle I can’t get over. I just can’t help it.

  39. TimSYV says:

    We all will not be completely shocked if L&S earns an Honor Award, but I think we all will be surprised if L&S wins the Medal. I loved this book, but medal-winning WYRM was definitely on a higher plane than this one.

    And yes, L&S has a twist (two, in fact), which makes this book all the more potently affective (yes, with an “a”). The best character in the book was Safer…he provided the most laughs, and he “plays” the spy “game” so much better than Georges that we literally believe him (as does Georges), thus setting us up for Twist #1.

    Twist #2 (mom in hospital) is so reminiscent of Bruce Willis’s Sixth Sense: You think you understood what you just read (or watched) throughout the whole story, but now you have to go back though it all and re-experience it in an entirely different light to understand what was actually going on in this story: a boy is coping with his loss of his mother (though temporarily), much as Bruce Willis was actually coping with his own death (while we never even realized it all along…..). Two very similarly mind-warping & reality shifting experiences. I very much liked that about L&S, and it did its Twist-thing SO well that I won’t be surprised if it receives an Honor. But if it wins the Medal, I’ll be quite a bit surprised….something even better out there deserves the 2013 Medal instead.

Speak Your Mind

*