Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead (Book Summary and Review) – Minute Book Report

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This is a quick book summary and analysis of Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead. This channel discusses and reviews books, novels, and short stories through drawing…poorly. New Minute Book Reports are posted every week.

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This is a story about a boy named Georges who moves to a new apartment in Brooklyn, New York. His father is an architect and his mother is a nurse, but because his father lost his job and started his own business, his mother works long hours.

Georges sees a sign for a spy club in the apartment building and attends the meeting. He is introduced to a boy named Safer and his little sister, Candy, both of whom are homeschooled. Safer is investigating a man in the building known as Mr. X, a quiet man who dresses in black and carries large suitcases.

Meanwhile, at school, Georges’ class is learning about taste. This unit is significant because at the end of the unit, the class is given a taste test in which only certain people, the “freaks,” will not taste anything.

There is an increased urgency with Mr. X, so Georges and Safer decide to break into Mr. X’s apartment. Georges is the lookout and Safer goes in. There are several break-in attempts, one in which Georges intercepts Mr. X in the elevator and stalls for time. However, Georges realizes that Mr. X is not a bad man. In fact, Safer made up the entire thing.

When the day of the taste test arrives, Georges and his friends decide to stick together and pretend to not taste anything. He hopes this will not make anyone feel like a freak.

In the end, it is revealed that Georges’ mother hasn’t been working late, but has been sick in the hospital the entire time. Georges finally gets over his anxiety to see her.

This story is unique in that most of what readers experience and learn is a lie. Two major plot points – the apprehension of Mr. X and Georges’ relationship with his mother – are constructed on lies. And despite the word “liar” in the title, this story takes advantage of readers with the illusion of certain realities.

Specifically, this story portrays how and why children lie. Safer lies about Mr. X out of boredom, yet Georges lies about his mother because of security and protection. In fact, these lies are so powerful that readers are sucked into these false realities that these children construct.

While this story preaches that sticking together in awkward social situations is beneficial – in essence, if misfits stick together, they won’t be misfits – the story, more importantly, portrays the different and ever-changing social groups, or cliques, that exist in middle schools.

Georges struggles with how his childhood best friend, Jason, is distant from him because they are now in different social groups. And while this story does not end with them reconciling, at least Georges understands that Jason hasn’t forgotten about him.

And what helps Georges accept Jason’s new group of friends, his mother’s condition, and his family’s new apartment is the realization that all of these experiences are smaller parts of a much larger picture. The painting in Georges’ living room is constructed of tiny images, so that viewers can analyze the small individual images, but also see the painting in its entirety and admire the image as a whole. This type of perspective allows people to see that while the little moments in life matter, they are all a part of something bigger, something greater.

Through Minute Book Reports, hopefully you can get the plot and a few relevant discussion points in just a couple of minutes.

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