Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Liar and Spy

Liar and Spy

Rebecca Stead
Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Performed/read by: Jesse Bernstein
Listening Library , 2012   ISBN: 978-0449014080

Not long ago, Georges’ father lost his job and Georges and his family had to move out of their house and into an apartment. It was hard for Georges to leave behind his custom bed and the home that was filled with so many good memories, and he was understandably upset about the move. Georges’ father is therefore relieved with Georges starts spending time with a boy called Safer, who lives in their apartment building. Perhaps if Georges has a new friend he won’t mind the move as much.

Safer tells Georges that he is a spy, and he recruits Georges to help him keep tabs on the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in an apartment upstairs. Safer is convinced that Mr. X is up to no good, that perhaps he is murdering people and cutting up their bodies in his bathtub. Safer uses the intercom system in the building to spy on people, especially Mr. X, and Georges is appalled when Safer even takes Mr. X’s laundry out of the washing machine so that he can look through all the pockets in the clothes.

As time goes by, Safer’s demands become more and more bizarre, and Georges starts to feel uncomfortable about Safer’s activities. Surely sneaking into people’s apartments when they are not around is illegal.

What makes things even worse is that Georges’ school life is miserable. A boy called Dallas is going out of his way to pick on Georges, making fun of his name and everything else that he can think of. Georges feels so very alone in school, and so very alone at home as well. His mother is working extra shifts at the hospital, and his father is so busy that he does not realize that Georges is struggling.

Then Georges make a discovery about Safer, and his world come crashing down around him. Suddenly what seemed to be real is nothing but an illusion, and Georges has no idea where lies and deceptions end and the truth begins.

Trying to adjust to big and unexpected changes can be very hard for a young person, especially if he or she has no support system in place. This remarkable book explores the lives of several children who try to deal with their fears by pretending that their fears don’t exist. By sheer happenstance the lives of these young people converge, and the most unexpected thing happens.

Though there is pain in this story, there is also hope and humor. Listeners will be amazed to see how Georges, the boy who keeps his head down and who tries to ignore his problems, finally finds himself confronting them.

Jesse Bernstein’s narrative perfectly captures the frustration Georges feels when he cannot control the direction his life is taking. The performance is touched with humor and pathos, and listeners will find it hard to press the stop bottom once they start listening to the tale.

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