The Year of Secret Assignments

secretassignmentsThe Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty
Ashbury/Brookfield # 2
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 340
My copy: paperback, from Aaron

Three girls. Three boys. One of them’s a total psycho.
It’s teenage life as it really feels. Only funnier.

The Ashbury-Brookfield pen pal program was designed to bring together the “lowlife Brooker kids” (as they’re known to the Ashburyites) and the “rich Ashbury snobs” (as they’re called by the Brookfielders) in a spirit of harmony and the Joy of the Envelope. But things don’t go quite as planned. Lydia and Sebastian trade challenges, like setting off the fire alarm at Brookfield. Emily tutors Charlie in How to Go On a Date with a Girl. But it’s Cassie and Matthew who both reveal and conceal the most about themselves — and it’s their secrets and lies that set off a war between the two schools.

* * *

I’ve been meaning to read more Jaclyn Moriarty books ever since reviews about her Ashbury/Brookfield series popped up in other blogs I follow. I’ve been meaning to, but I never got around to buying one because I wanted to start with book # 1 but it was kind of hard to find. I ended up getting the second book from one of the book swaps we had in the book club, put it on my TBR pile and forgot all about it until a few weeks ago when I was looking for something light and quick to read.

I was probably halfway into it when I checked Goodreads and realized that I was reading the second book, but then it didn’t matter anymore because I’ve gotten over my being nitpicky with the series I read. That, and I didn’t even notice that it’s the second book already, because I didn’t feel lost at all while I was reading this.

Best friends Lydia, Emily and Cassie are students from Ashbury and are all in the same English class. One of their assignments for the semester is to send letters to their penpals from Brookfield, their rival school. They didn’t want to, but they ended up doing so for the grade. Lydia meets Seb, and they spend most of their letter writing times exchanging challenges to get one out of class or to recognize the other. Emily teaches Charlie how to be good with girls. Cassie gets Matthew, who threatens her at first, and then turns nice after Cassie talks about herself more. Told in letters, emails, transcripts and diary entries, The Year of Secret Assignments is a fun and touching story of rivalry and friendship with a good dose of pranking fun.

I really enjoyed reading The Year of Secret Assignments. I enjoy reading books in letter format, but only if they’re done right. I liked how the letters in this book gave me different perspectives of a certain event, and it wasn’t that hard to follow even if I had to go back again and again on the same scenes. The voices of the characters were all distinct, and their stories were all different but interesting enough for me to latch on and watch them unfold. I really liked Emily and Charlie because they’re so likable, but Lydia and Seb seem more fun with all their pranks.
But the best part of the book has to be how their friendships were written. There was no doubt that Lydia, Emily and Cassie were good friends, and it was shown from how they cared for each other and how they mention each other in their letters. I liked how they all come to defend each other, and how they all come through for each other at all times. Their friendship reminded me of some of my favorite ones in YA fiction, such as the ones in Jellicoe Road, or Saving Francesca. I guess that’s also another similarity in Australian YA?

Even if this was the second book in the series, I didn’t have a hard time following the story. I think the books are based on different characters, anyway, and the characters in the other books are just part of the secondary cast. I liked how real the Ashbury/Brookfield world is, and I look forward to reading more of them when I get my hands on the other books. :)

I think the amazing thing is this: that you are just as lovely as you ever were, except stronger and braver than before.

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook

6 Thoughts on “The Year of Secret Assignments

  1. I didn’t know this was a series until I saw it on Goodreads. I’ve still only read this book but reading your review reminded me how wonderful this book was. I definitely need to catch up on the others!

    The friendship between Lydia, Cassie and Emily was easily the best part! I always love seeing great friendships in books and The Year of Secret Assignments definitely had it!

    And yay for Aussie authors!

    • Hi Annie! Yeah, great friendships in books are really fun to read. I hope to find the other books here, so I can read the rest! I hear Moriarty’s A Corner of White is good, too. Have you read it? :)

  2. This was such a fun read! (and it reminded me a bit of the gang in Saving Francesca too.) Feeling Sorry for Celia was good but I liked this one better. The dialogues are funnier and wittier. I got Becoming Bindy Mackenzie from Book Sale, and I have yet to read that, and the 4th book as well. All in all, I love this series! And it being epistolary makes the series even more enjoyable and very easy to get into. :D

    • I have two more Moriarty books in my TBR, but they’re not from this series. Haha. I hope I can find copies of the other books in Book Sale, too. :D

  3. I can’t remember if I read this or Becoming Bindy MacKenzie first, but they introduced me to Aussie YA! I really enjoyed reading them and this one in particular reminded me of an old YA series called Pen Pals. I agree, the best part was the friendship! It really took me back to grade school and high school, when you were so certain that the friends you had then will be your friends for life.

    • I used to have pen pals in grade school, but we stopped writing to each other. But yeah, I remember that! We had a time in high school when we would all write to each other EVERYDAY, and it seemed like we’d never run out of things to say! That definitely took hours off my free time when I’m at home, because I had to write a ton of letters every night. :D

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