Review posted December 31, 2012.
Wendy Lamb Books, 2012. 180 pages.
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Other Children's Fiction
Georges has just had to move; his Dad lost his job; his Mom is working extra shifts at the hospital; his best friend started sitting at the cool table; and he's dealing with more and more bullying at school. Then there's a post in the laundry room: "Spy Club today." When Georges investigates, he meets a kid named Safer.
Safer and his family aren't much like the other kids Georges knows. Safer plans to train him to be a spy. It starts with things like watching the lobbycam but goes on to checking the laundry of Mr. X, the man who dresses only in black, and progresses to breaking and entering.
I think Safer pictures a little box of evil in a corner of Mr. X's apartment, and he thinks that if he can find it, he'll save the world, or at least a small part of Brooklyn.
And who am I to say that he's wrong?
This is a quiet book, but has more of what Rebecca Stead does well: quirky characters who feel just quirky enough to be real; group dynamics of classes of kids; the strange details of middle school; and especially making new friends.
This book is a lot like When You Reach Me, but without the time travel, so it's a quieter book. The result is not as flashy, but still excellent, about an ordinary kid coping with a lot of things, and doing it with some stumbles, but coming out on top.