So here I am writing my second book review on this blog. I hesitate to criticize other writers.
However, I’m hoping to look critically at these already published books and then better understand how to do this amazing thing authors do: weave a story and make it work. I’m hoping that by writing this out, I’ll get a better idea of the process. Even toddlers can get better with binoculars given time and practice.
With that hope in my heart, here’s what I think of Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead.
Liar & Spy is about a middle school boy struggling at school with bullies and at home with a move brought on by his father’s loss of a job.
It started a bit slow for me and took some time to take off. I was hooked a bit by the descriptions of the first meeting between the two friends involving a poster about the Spy Club with handwritten messages on it in the lobby of an apartment. Stead wove pieces together about taste buds, pointillism, liars, and spies in ways that worked for me.
The way she described middle school torture also worked for me for the most part. My 7th grade son related to the teasing that took place in this book.
I mentioned earlier that I had trouble listening to this one on CD because I wasn’t sure how an artist’s name was spelled (Seurat), but I did like learning about pointillism. There were also notes spelled out in the audio that got a bit tedious. However, that wouldn’t have been a problem if I visually read the book.
My only major disappointment was that the new friend of the character often came off as too pushy to be a good friend – even with the twist on why he was being so pushy at the end. Tactics like ‘have I ever asked you to do anything for me before?’ left a sour taste in my mouth. I wanted to like Safer because I could sense that the author was making him good. But it was a bit tough for me through the pressure he put on the main character.
I can’t imagine how hard it would be to write a second book as good as Stead’s Newbery Medal winning When You Reach Me. That one took my breath away with all of the twists and turns and would definitely be worth looking into if you haven’t read it and love surprise endings.
Ok. That wasn’t true. I can imagine because I am trying to write a book as good as When You Reach Me. It’s hard. Hard like digging in the ground of my garden this January but pecking away at the keys of my computer brings me much more joy than gardening in January ever could.