Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review: The Year of Secret Assigments by Jaclyn Moriarty

"Shakespeare got started using this book? Wait till I tell my English teacher" (pg.2)

Published: February1st 2004 by Scholastic Us
Description (from Goodreads):
Popular Aussie writer Jaclyn Moriarty, author of the smash debut, Feeling Sorry for Celia avoids the notorious sophomore slump with this bouncy epistolary follow-up that is brimming with self-confidence and charm. In The Year of Secret Assignments, a tenth grade English teacher attempts to unite feuding schools by launching a pen-pal project. Best friends Cassie, Emily and Lydia initiate the correspondence, and are answered by Matthew, Charlie and Seb. Emily and Lydia are more than pleased with their matches, but quiet Cassie has a frightening experience with Matthew. When Lydia and Emily discover that Matthew has threatened their fragile friend, the Ashbury girls close ranks, declaring an all-out war on the Brookfield boys. Soon, the couples are caught up in everything from car-jacking and lock-picking, to undercover spying and identity theft.
Moriarty's captivating comedy of manners reads like a breezy 21st century version of Jane Austen--with no end of ridiculous misunderstandings, angst-ridden speeches, and heartfelt make-ups. Female teen fans of Ann Brasheres' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts will waste no time swapping copies of The Year of Secret Assignments, with all their best buds. (Ages 12 and up) --Jennifer Hubert

My thoughts:
Lydia, Emily and Cassie. They have been best friends since they were little. Their parents all are lawyers who also have been friends before the birth of the girls. Now Lydia, Emily and Cassie are 10th graders from Ashbury high school. They love to hang around, just the three of them, skip lessons to go to the movies, and to make up random food without recipes during the weekends at someone's house. Since their parents are lawyers, they always get a house for all of them; every weekend someone's parents are on a seminar etc. 

Lydia is loud, extreme and she has a great sense of humor. She dreams of becoming a writes some day. Her father is judge of Supreme Court and her mother is a retired Soap Opera Star.  Emily loves shopping, chocolate and horses. She has two horses of her own. Cassie is the most sensible one of the girls. She is quiet and does not really open up to others that Lydia and Emily. She loves singing, but she has a terrible stage fright. She has lost her father only a year ago and is still going through the progress of grief. 

When a pen-pal project between Ashbury (I get the sense that it is one of those preppy schools for the kids of rich people) and Brookfield High is launched, there is prejudice on the both sides. Everyone at Ashbury thinks that Brookfield High students deal drugs and get into problems when at the same time at Brookfield the kids think that everyone at Ashbury are rich and arrogant.

Lydia's pen pal from Brookfield, Seb, is a sensitive guy who loves art and is obsessed about soccer. Emily's pen pal Charlie is a sweet guy with some problems. Cassie's pen pal, Matthew is a total mystery. First he threatens Cassie in every possible way, but then takes 360 and is really nice towards Cassie. Lydia and Emily both are happy about their pen-pals, when Cassie is in doubt. Can she trust Matthew? Is Matthew really as nice as he seems to be via his letters? When a secret about Matthew is revealed, Lydia and Emily want to help their hurt friend. A war between the schools is declared. What will happen? Who will win? Find out by reading 'The Year of Secret Assigments'.

This book is told via letters, e-mails, diary entries and notes. This is the second book I read which was told that way. Last year I read 'Heart of my Sleeve' which was written the same way. Even though I also enjoyed Heart on my Sleeve, I must say I liked this one a bit more.

Lydia, Emily and Cassie are all likable characters. I like Lydia's wit and sense of humor and I feel bad for Cassie who has lost her father; I can identify with her, I know how it feels to lose your father. Somehow I feel that Emily was a little in the shadows of Lydia and Cassie. But it is only my opinion. From these three girls, I liked Lydia the most. Someway I also felt that she is the backbone of the friendship of these three girls; she always figures out something fun and extreme to do and that way keeps the friendship interesting. 

When the new pen-pals of the girls are introduced, I right away knew that there is something wrong with Cassie's pen-pal Matthew. You will be totally surprised, when the whole truth about him is discovered. From the three guys, I must say that I liked Lydia's pen-pal, Seb, the most. He is obsessed with soccer and remembers the winners of the World Cup from the history. He is very artistic and sensible, and that is what I personally love in a guy. 

It is very interesting to read a book written in a way this was written. Somehow it makes the reading experience more personal; you are reading someone's letter and e-mails. 'The Year of Secret Assigments' was a nice and fast read with a lot of action and humor. I recommend this book for the fans of YA novels. If you haven't read a book in a form of letters/e-mails etc. I think this book would be a perfect one to start from.


  1. I love this book! I adore Jaclyn Moriaty's writing, I really like the original way in which she makes use of different forms to tell the story, and she always makes me laugh. I'm glad you enjoyed it too :)

  2. Rachel, thanks for your comment.
    I noticed recently that there will be another book by Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty. Have you heard about that one?

  3. I've been meaning to read this book for a long time. Thanks for your review!
    Out of curiosity, do you still live in Finland? Is it hard to get English books there? Or do you buy them translated into Finnish?

  4. Alison, yes, I still live in Finland. (And I hate every minute of it). Yeah, it is extremely hard to get books in English. I love to read YA novels, but the bookstores at my city don't have any. (Well, they have like Harry Potter books and the Twilight Saga books, but I already have read those). The library has a collection of books in English, but I have basically read all the interesting ones already. So only way to get books is to order them online, which sucks.
    I never read in Finnish (only the school books I have to for my Finnish class), otherwise I do all the reading in English. :)

  5. Wow, sounds very interesting! I hear nothing but good things about Jaclyn Moriarty, I have to check her out.

  6. This was the first novel I read by Moriarty, but I will definitely read some more from here if I get a change.

  7. thanks for visiting my blog today - perfect timing (your comments re: Purge). I'm really excited to read this book.

    Secret Assignments looks like a cute book. This genre has improved so much!

  8. Mari, I hope you really enjoy Purge. It is amazing read and made me really proud to be Finnish! :)

  9. Milka excellent post, but what is the genre of the novel?


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