When seventh-grader Georges (named for the painter Seurat) and his family must sell their house and move to an apartment in Brooklyn, everything changes for him.
Narrator Georges understands that his father losing his job meant they needed to downsize, and that his mother, a nurse, now needs to work more double shifts. Safer, a boy his age who lives upstairs in Georges's building, helps him pass the time by keeping a lookout for the mysterious Mr. X on the fourth floor, who dresses in black and hauls suitcases around. Safer teaches Georges how to observe their building's security camera for long stretches. When Georges gets bullied at school, his friendship with Safer grows in importance. Together they discover a key in Mr. X's laundry and wonder what it might open. But when Safer asks Georges to keep watch while Safer slips into Mr. X's apartment to try out the key, Georges wants no part of "breaking and entering."
As with Seurat's paintings, Georges's mother has always told him that he needs to look not at the dots but at the big picture. However, as things heat up for Georges, he realizes that "Life is really just a bunch of nows, one after the other. The dots matter." As she did with When You Reach Me, Stead captures the experience of crossing the threshold from childhood into young adulthood, when longtime friendships feel tenuous and growing up means allowing the truth to outshine the lies we once told ourselves. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness