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Rebecca Stead on 'Liar & Spy' and complex mysteries for kids

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Author Rebecca Stead won the 2009 Newbery Award — one of the highest honors in children’s literature — for her poignant and subtly complex middle-grade novel When You Reach Me. Her latest novel Liar & Spy (now available) is a completely different kind of story, but it centers on characters who possess a similar, quirky curiosity toward the world around them and try to solve mysteries that take them in unexpected directions. The new novel follows Georges (the “S” is silent) as he moves to a new apartment building in Brooklyn and meets Safer, an unusual kid who’s convinced that their neighbor Mr. X is up to no good. Stead took the time to talk to EW about Liar & Spy.

When You Reach Me had a lot of subtle nuances to the story, and so does Liar & Spy. How do you think the novels are most different?
I think of Liar & Spy as completely different and actually not at all like a When You Reach Me-type story. I feel like Liar & Spy has a much quieter, more emotional revelation. It’s not like this mind-bending zinger toward the end. I don’t know if I’d say it’s more concrete or less concrete as a mystery than When You Reach Me. You never know what you’re getting in terms of the reader impact, but what I felt as the person writing the story was that the impact was emotional and much quieter and added up in a quiet way, not in a way that is supposed to make you say, “Oh my God, what?!” To have that kind of revelation in a story feels empty to me. If you’re looking for that When You Reach Me zinger, it’s going to disappoint you — but I’m hoping that Liar & Spy is a completely different kind of experience. READ FULL STORY

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