Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Year of Secret Assignments, Jacyln Moriarty

The Brookfield/Ashbury penfriend project has long been a source of woe and misery for the students of both schools. Last year, in fact, as Lydia Jaackson-Oberman writes in her Notebook, last year, many students ended up dead(or, at least, very unhappy). Lydia, Cassie, and Emily are best friends and Ashbury girls with lawyer parents, and none of them have any interest in writing to the sure-to-be druggies, muderers, and theives of Brookfield.

Reluctantly, each of the three girls write their first letters and mail them off, each in their own styles- Emily in a girly babble that doesn't speak wonders for her intelligent, Cassie as a project set by her counselor to tell her 'life story' to a stranger, and Lydia, claiming to be a fish and proposing a drug-trafficking scheme.

Against all odds, their new male penfriends manage to surprise them as well. Charlie Taylor scrutinizes Emily's misuse of words and idiotic-sounding prose, Seb Mantegna begs Lydia to earn his trust by setting off the fire alarms at Brookfield, and Matthew Dunlop sends Cassie a... death threat.

Desptie these rough beginnings, the penfriends begin to connect, and somehow, remarkably enough, fall in love.

Or so it seems.

But Matthew Dunlop has a nasty surprise for Cassie, and his betrayal sets Lydia, Emily, Seb, and Charlie on a mission for revenge. Chaos, kissing, assignments, and some seriously excellent writing ensues.

The Year of Secret Assignments is written entirely in penfriend letters, emails, Notebook entries, and, of course, Lydia's Secret Assignments. I immensely enjoyed the similar format in another book by Jaclyn Moriarty(The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie) so I was excited to see it again, and I loved it even more this time.

Each of the characters had a unique personality with complicated problems; and yet each was extremely original. Cassie, Emily and Lydia are the sort of friends that everyone wants to have, the group of girls who adore each other unconditionally. They are quirky, fun, needy, supportive, sweet, cynical, and a whole variety of other wonderful contradictions. Because of the format, the story is fast-paced. A little too fast paced, because it flew by and was over much, much, much sooner than I wanted it to be. I was miserable to see it go. But fast-pacedness is a good thing, technically.

The only thing that I didn't like about The Year of Secret Assignments was how... matchy everything was. If Lydia and Seb were flirting and falling in love, than Charlie and Emily were falling in love; if Charlie and Emily weren't talking, Lydia and Sebastian would fight. Not because their friends were fighting. They just happened to argue at the exact same time. It struck me as an odd and somewhat lazy move on the author's part. That aspect just didn't feel very realistic to me.

However, that's not too likely to bother anyone who isn't me and therefore insane, and it doesn't take too much away from the supreme gloriousness that is The Year of Secret Assignments. Though a somewhat light, funny book, it managed to be touching and poignant at the same time, and I loved that about it. I would recommend this book heavily to anyone, and I'm dying to read more by Jaclyn Moriarty. Btw, I read somewhere that she has a blog, but I cannot find it. Does anybody happen to read it or have the URL? If so, please leave it in a comment.

In love with Charlie, Seb, and Aussie slang,

It's an affectionate gesture, gosh darnit.


Abby O. said...

This is one of my all time favorite books.I love it SOOOOOOOOOO much!My favorite character is Lydia.Who's yours?

Caroline said...

Lydia, for sure! She is made of awesome. Although I was pretty partial towards Sebastian, also. ;)

RR2 said...

*waves* I know Jaclyn Moriarty's blog.
It's here:
(The title of her blog refers to her first novel)

I LOVE Jacyln Moriarty's books. Great review! I can see what you mean about how matchy the book was but it was so much fun that I didn't really care. Have you read Feeling Sorry for Celia yet?

Heather♥ said...

Haha. I loved the p.s. That was pretty darn hilarious, and I agree that page-memorizers are very smarty-pants!


Alison said...

You should definitely read Jaclyn Moriarty's blog backwards, as in, from the very beginning to what's happening now. She doesn't update very often, which is sad, but she said that she was going to get her own website soon, which is definitely good news.

Her blog is quite sad (the earlier posts), which is why I recommend you read it from the beginning because the sad news is all replaced by really great news for her personally.

Loved the book, and like the review. I didn't really noticed too much about it being matchy, but, I think I'm too big of a fan to notice these things. Anyway, good review!

Abby O. said...

I know those are my two favorite characters Lydia and Seb.:)