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The Year of Secret Assignments

Review

The Year of Secret Assignments

Emily, Lydia and Cassie, students at exclusive Ashbury High, have never thought much about the students at working-class Brookfield High. When their English teacher assigns them to write to Brookfield pen pals, the girls are sure the experiment will be a disaster. "It's probably against our constitutional rights to make us associate with drug dealers and murderers," Emily says.

To Emily and Lydia's surprise, their pen pals, Charlie and Sebastian, are funny, charming and even a little bit sexy. Cassie also tries hard to break through the defenses of her pen pal, Matthew, who opens their correspondence with a tersely written threat. When he finally agrees to meet her, though, Matthew has a very unpleasant surprise for shy, vulnerable Cassie. Outraged by Matthew's betrayal, Cassie's fiercely loyal friends, united with their newfound Brookfield allies, vow to seek revenge on Cassie's mysterious pen pal.

Told in letters, e-mails, memos, Lydia's writing notebook and Cassie's diary, THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS unfolds in the students' distinctive voices. There's Emily, who misuses words to great comic effect; Lyd, the daredevil and aspiring author; and Cassie, whose letters reveal her ongoing efforts to recover from her father's recent death. Their letters tell the same story from different perspectives; the questions raised by one friend's letters are answered in another's. The boys' characters are also well developed, as they gradually overcome their own prejudices about private-school girls and romances develop.

The letters are at times a little too witty, a little too well composed to be convincing as the casual writing of real teenagers. Nevertheless, the novel is tightly crafted and expertly plotted. Its Australian setting, complete with its unique culture and lingo, will appeal to fans of the Britishisms in ANGUS, THONGS AND FULL-FRONTAL SNOGGING, and its messages about friendship will speak to readers who loved THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on February 1, 2004

The Year of Secret Assignments
by Jaclyn Moriarty

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0439498821
  • ISBN-13: 9780439498821