Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > The Year of Secret Assignments

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty
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Feb 09, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: ya, 2008, australian-women-writers
Read in February, 2008

(Australian Title: Finding Cassie Crazy)
For their grade 10 English class at posh Ashbury High, their teacher Mr. Botherit (!) has best friends Emily, Lydia and Cassy writing penpal letters to the English students at the rival public (therefore dodgy) school nearby, Brookfield. This is, in part, to help forge a bond between the hostile schools. Emily and Lydia, after a rocky start, form friendships of sorts with Charlie and Sebastian, while Cassie gets single line threats from the boy, Matthew, to whom she writes pages.

Lydia and Seb give each other secret assignments, something Lydia's been doing with her two best friends for years, and Emily tries to help Charlie with his technique at asking girls out. Cassie finally breaks Matthew's silence and finds someone she can really talk to, only to be betrayed by him in the worst way possible. Lydia and Emily are out for revenge, and Charlie and Seb are happy to help.

The Year of Secret Assignments is absolutely hilarious - I laughed out loud for 340 pages while reading this this afternoon (it's a quick read because it's so bloody enjoyable) - yet it has depth and poignancy. It's about friendship, loss, loyalty and being a teenager, but it never moralises. Some of the humour is subtle and ironic and may be lost on a younger audience, but perhaps not.

It's written entirely in the form of letters, diary entries, school notice-board posters, a few emails, the hilarious lists and statutory declarations and subpeonas Emily's dad presents her with when any other parent would simply yell out "Tea's ready!", and the absolutely ridiculous and patronising Notebook (TM) Lydia's dad gave her for her birthday. It reminded me a bit of John Marsden, as he had a couple of books written in the form of letters, but as I remember it they were much more serious. This is serious too - seriously funny. It's also extremely well written and paced, with so much revealed and counter-revealed from other perspectives, and in more subtle ways as well, so that you get the full story or can read between the lines, and through which the personalities of the main characters are revealed.

I also liked that, as this is the US edition of an Australian book, they pretty much only changed the spelling of words like "favourite", and switched to Fahrenheit - which doesn't fit at all, since no one in Australia uses anything but Celcius, and I have no idea how hot 104 degrees F is, but I'm sure American readers will, so that one's ok. They left alone a lot of other words, like mobile phone, and even the spelling of "arse" - and that reminds me, I love the maturity of this book. The characters seem shallow at first, but they're not. Oh, and I love Emily's vocab problems! She's hilarious without even meaning to be. Wow, though, I could never have been friends with someone like her. I'm too pedantic, I'd be forever correcting her until she shot me.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer Sounds like a fun read, so I'm adding it to my list!


Shannon (Giraffe Days) It was definitely one of the funniest books I've read in a long time - which was great, because I really needed a good laugh!


DawnMarie I loved to laugh at the cleverness of the book. How clever the author had to be!


Shannon (Giraffe Days) It must come naturally to her - I don't know how you could write such a good story and be funny at the same time otherwise :)


DawnMarie I know- I've tried. As you can see, you don't see my name written in ink all over the world. It probably comes natural to all of the authors out there.


message 6: by Jacob (new)

Jacob Sounds like a good book.


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