by Rebecca Stead
First sentence: “There’s this totally false map of the human tongue.”
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Seventh grade is a time of change, transition. For many, it no longer means elementary school and the predictability of one teacher. There’s adjusting to a more difficult schedule, different expectations, and, for many, different friends.
Georges (after Seurat, the painter) is in that position. Because his father has been laid off, they’ve had to move out of their Brooklyn home and into an apartment about a mile away. It doesn’t mean changing schools, but even so, leaving the familiar is always difficult. His mother — who works lots of double shifts at the hospital — bought him some America’s Funniest Home Movies in order to help him smile. It also doesn’t help that he’s being bullied at school: they make fun of his name, calling him Gorgeous, and his less-than-stellar performances. And that his former best friend, Jason, is gone over to the dark side.
Enter Safer, Georges’s new upstairs neighbor. He’s odd, with his stories of Mr. X and dead bodies, and his insistence that he’s a spy. But Georges rolls with it, and discovers something: he kind of likes being a spy. And that Safer, and his sister Candy, are maybe even good friends, too.
While it’s not as gripping as I remembered When You Reach Me being, it’s a solid, excellent story of friendship, change, and making the most of your situation. And a middle grade book that can deliver that is always worth my time.