Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Year of Secret Assignments
By Jaclyn Moriarty
2004, Arthur A. Levine Books, 352 pages

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.

— Amazon.com description

Husband, reading the back of the book: "Three girls. Three boys. Two rival schools. This could get messy."
Me: "Shut up, you don't even KNOWWWWWWW!"

Listen, don't judge this book by its cover/back cover. It looks super lame, but I haven't laughed out loud this much while reading a book in AGES! Jaclyn Moriarty now = most hilarious person ever. I hate the smiley face on the cover and would never have picked this up if I hadn't read all the amazing reviews of it online.

The Australian version of this book has a MUCH better cover, though I prefer the English title. "Secret assignments? Oh, mysterious!" Totally makes you want to read, right? As opposed to book about crazy Cassie, which is so not even the point of the book.

On the plus side: An Amazon review compares the book to a modern Jane Austen, and I can see it in the same way Clueless is based on Emma. Miscommunications, revenge, kissing. All the basics are still there, but with a twist. Three best friends, the daughters of lawyers, get an assignment in English class to write to pen pals at the rival school on "the other side of the tracks," Brookfield. Oh gosh, where could it go wrong?

Downsides: None. Unless you feel like reading something serious, but underneath all the silliness this book does have a lot of meat (grief, communication, how to stand up for yourself, children's rights to privacy...I could go on). Oh, and it's based in Australia, so sometimes it's like, "What's a breakfast pyramid?" But you figure it out. Kind of. What IS a breakfast pyramid?

Moral of the story: As Cora says in the book: "And maybe that's the trick to getting through it, through life: realizing that everybody, including ourselves, is lugging around some kind of screwed-up baggage. Maybe we are put here to help each other carry the loads."

You might also like:
Emma by Her Highness Who I Worship Jane Austen...you can't truly appreciate the modern stuff till you've read the BEST OF THE BEST.

Anna Reads young adult book blog


  1. I have no idea what a breakfast pyramid is either! Doesn't matter though, like you I loved this book anyway! Hilarious, and full of lively, distinct characters. Have you read Feeling Sorry for Celia?

  2. Just clicked over b/c you said this was one of your favorite reviews of the year. I haven't read "The Year of Secret Assignments," but now it's at the top of my list! It sounds a little like Jellicoe Road... one of my all-time favorites!

  3. dude its soooo funny when Charlie said:
    If I pay you your a prostitue
    Em"Okay its for free"
    If its for free your a slut


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