Three girls. Three boys. Two rival schools. This could get messy.
The Ashbury-Brookfield pen pal program is designed to bring together the two rival schools in a spirit of harmony and "the Joy of the Envelope." But when Cassie, Lydia, and Emily send their first letters to Matthew, Charlie, and Sebastian, things don't go quite as planned. What starts out as a simple letter exchange soon leads to secret missions, false alarms, lock picking, mistaken identities, and an all-out war between the schools--not to mention some really excellent kissing.
I may hate the book having different titles in different places but that does not alter the fact that I loved the book every bit as much as I did Feeling Sorry for Celia. This author has a real talent for writing young adult fiction which is still totally readable by those of us who are no longer young! The book is in the format of letters and diary entries and tells of relationships of many kinds. We see three girls who have grown up together and have each others backs at every turn. Then there are developing relationships with boys, some delightful parents and peers. As usual for Jaclyn Moriarty the telling is quirky and fun and totally unputdownable. At 1.00 this morning I was saying "just one more chapter......just one more.....just....oh I have finished!" Highly recommended for a fascinating and fun read. The Moriartys are a very talented family:)
Every four years, I turn into this crazed figure skating fan. I remember the 2002 Winter Olympics in particular because I lived and died with Michelle Kwan four years earlier and 2002 was going to be HER year. In the long program, Sarah Hughes (aka Sarah Who?) skated first and threw down a flawless performance. Triple toe loop-triple loop, triple salchow-triple loop -- technically and stylistically, it was pretty damn perfect. However, with Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen and Irina Slutskaya still waiting to skate, I figured Hughes's performance was just the beginning and I was waiting to be blown away by something even greater.
I read The Year of Secret Assignments, aka Finding Cassie Crazy, last year and immediately placed it on my I Have Just Read You and I Love You shelf. This was before Noelle and I started blogging so I rated it 4 stars and moved on to my next read. However, after revisiting Feeling Sorry for Celia last week, I decided to reread and review Secret Assignments. Well, knock me over with a Sarah Hughes triple salchow because not only did it hold up on reread, it was even better than I remembered. I knew it was good, but after a year of blogging and reading too many Sasha Cohens, this time I let myself be blown away by the skill and artistry of Jaclyn Moriarty's writing.
As with Celia, Secret Assignments is written in epistolary form. Mr. Botherit is back spreading the Joy of the Envelope between rival schools Ashbury and Brookfield. Emily, Lydia, and Cassie are Ashfield girls and best friends. Emily, daughter of two lawyers, wants to be a lawyer herself even though she regularly butchers the English language. I nearly spit out my coffee when she wrote, in all seriousness, that something was "non d' scrip." Lydia wants to be a writer and often uses her creative energy on her friends. She's the instigator behind their secret assignments, tasks that they must complete no matter the peril or potential for punishment. Cassie wants to sing, though her stage fright prevents her from singing in front of anyone other than Em and Lyd. She also lost her father last year and she doesn't know why people keep saying "lost" as if he's been misplaced. Em, Lyd, and Cass have been best friends since elementary school and it shows -- learning about one means learning about them all.
I'll get to the Brookfield boys in a minute but first, how much do you love that the girls are characterized by their goals?? The book starts off with an entry from Lydia's notebook. The Notebook™ is supposed to help aspiring writers achieve their dreams. It is so patronizing and ridiculous. It reminded me of all the mind-numbingly tedious assignments I had to do in high school that were supposed to either get me into a good college or prepare me for adult blah blah blah. Lydia gives The Notebook™ the respect it deserves.
Second, I adored the portrayal of the parents, especially Emily's dad and Cassie's mom. The girls all have at least one lawyer parent who is friendly with the others because they attended law school together. Emily's dad routinely calls her down to dinner via a summons delivered by her younger brother. Em's parents are away a lot for work, which she resents, but whenever they are present, they are so clueless but with good intentions that they never fail to crack me up. The memories of Cassie's dad though will squeeze your heart. ("Now you're cooking with gas!")
Are you ready to meet Charlie Taylor and Seb Mantegna? I love good banter and the letters between Charlie and Emily and Seb and Lydia are so witty and fun. The chapters are set up perfectly so you get some scenes with Charlie and Em, then Seb and Lydia, and then Matthew Dunlop and Cass. I put the Charlie and Seb section of my notes above. Considering the notes I usually take, it shows how much I loved them. They are both such decent guys. There's no brooding loner bullshit with them. You will be charmed before you can say VERSHOOM.
There are six different letter writers and six different points of view and each one has an individual voice. I could always tell who was doing the talking/writing without having to flip back. On technical merit, Moriarty is solid.
Presentation is where Moriarty really shines. The letters are such an original and fun way to tell this story. There's so much energy in the story and the characters. She captures the indignities that come with being underaged as well as all the potential for mischief. There is a lot of humor in this book but like the relationship between Emily, Lydia, and Cassie, it is based on heart. You don't need to read Feeling Sorry for Celia to read this book, although Celia is worth a read. The Year of Secret Assignments, though, is a perfectly executed triple-triple combination.
GUYS I'M NOT EVEN KIDDING THIS IS STILL ONE OF MY MOST FAVOURITE BOOKS EVER.
Such a great read! I loved the dynamic between the characters, and Lydia was hilarious. Such a sass queen! Her and Seb are #goals because they match each other's crazy SO WELL.
Poor Cassie, though. What a dud of a penpal.
Having the story written through exchanged letters was really clever, and kept things unpredictable which was fun! I related to the way some of these things were written. Other parts made me laugh out loud. Some made me LOL because of how relatable it was.
The characters are so light and fun and quirky and Seb was an early favourite that continued to impress. I have a favourite quote but I forgot its entirety so I'll add it later and you will appreciate it after the long and tedious wait, I am certain. Feel free to beat me to it and just read this book. You will not be sorry.
I read this book so many times and it endures no matter how many times I read it. The series is great but this is hands down the best novel in it. So much fun and sass and creativity and it's so easy to read. Highly recommend.
If you have not yet read the brilliant Finding Cassie Crazy by Jacyln Moriarty, please do yourself a favour, stop reading this pitiful attempt at a review, and go track down a copy. Okay? Seriously, do it.
If you’ve decided not to immediately take my advice and you’re still hanging around this page, alright, I’ll try to make it worth your while.
So, here goes.
Five Reasons to Read Finding Cassie Crazy (you really don’t need all five, any one of these will do, but whatever, I’m feeling verbose and generous right now..):
1.It’s Jacyln Moriarty! - One of my all time favourite writers, I can’t even begin to do justice to Moriarty’s way with words. Sure, I believe that writing is a skill that can be honed and taught, but I’m also positive that there are people out there who simply have a talent for bringing stories to life and a gift for expression. Jaclyn Moriarty is just such a writer. She writes laugh out loud dialogue, tight, surprising plots, characters that live and breathe on the pages. Her novels blend the realistic with the whimsical (I’d say quirky, but I really dislike the word quirky) and come out completely compelling, funny and moving. This is the sort of writing that grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go, and I can honestly say I have never met a Jacyln Moriarty book I didn’t love.
2.Epistolary Awesomeness - This is a multi-viewpoint novel, largely narrated through correspondence as part of an inter high school letter writing project – round two of the tie-forging experiment implemented by Mr Botherit in Feeling Sorry For Celia. The (hilarious) letters of the main characters are interspersed with notice board announcements, journal entries, emails, transcripts, statutory declarations and summonses (Moriarty’s background as a lawyer is used to hysterical effect). I’m not always a fan of epistolary style books, but Finding Cassie Crazy nails it, to the point where I could not imagine this story being told any other way. It also makes this book somewhat difficult to put down. Every time I read it, I find myself saying, “just one more letter, then I’ll stop” and then I keep doing this until I find myself reading the entire book in one compulsive gulp.
3.High School High Jinks - Two Sydney high schools. One letter writing project. Six students. Pranks. Revenge schemes. Secret assignments. Shenanigans. Fist-pump moments. Swoons. I don’t recall my Year Ten experience (which was definitely more Brookfield than Ashbury) being this awesome, so I re-live it vicariously through this novel.
4.The Characters - I love them all. Okay, not . Moriarty writes pitch-perfect, realistic and unique characters that each have a distinct voice. With varied backgrounds, layers and motivations, each member of the cast travels their own subtle arc throughout the plot, bringing something different to the culmination of the book where their individual journeys weave together. I’m a big fan of the way Moriarty writes the friendship between the girls. It’s real and heartfelt and lacks the angst and competitiveness that comes across in some YA novel friendships. You can tell that these girls just genuinely like each other, and I love that they fiercely defend each other in face of tragedy, change, jerk-ish boys..
Enough said. Are you still reading this? Go get this book. You can thank me / other Goodreads recommenders / your librarian / bookseller later.
I finished re-reading this book for maybe the tenth or hundredth time on the airplane this morning.
And I could write down some quirky anecdote about how I came across this book (because trust me, going on Barnes&Noble.com and ordering whatever looks mildly interesting always makes for a quirky anecdote :) or I could say how I first walked by Feeling Sorry for Celia about six times before I picked it up and then spent the whole afternoon torn between laughter and empathy, and then started writing a journal of my own to re-create the experience (except it didn't really work. the attempted effort is probably collecting dust under my bed.)
Jaclyn Moriarty was my first Aussie author after Melina Marchetta, and if that didn't cement my permanent love of literature (especially the kind that you have to order over an ocean because I'm nothing if not high maintenance :) then I don't know what would.
So I could tell you that Jaclyn Moriarty inspired me to write (which she did) and that she inspired me to be a wonderful person just in life (read her blog, because she is one of the most wonderful people that you can get to know through writings about every-day life things) and that I relate completely to every character that she's ever written even if I haven't been in all of their shoes before. And that the stories are just so layered and surprising and beautiful and funny. You just feel like you've unearthed a gem when you find something that it just simply, honestly, hilariously, profoundly funny as all of Jaclyn Moriarty's books :) And it is so rare to come across someone who so completely gets it, to understand that first love isn't perfect and isn't with the first guy that you have a crush on~ and that people grow and change gradually and that we're all weird in our own ways but that we aren't just characters propped up on a set; people have depth.
I could say all of this and more, because I could babble and gush on about the absolute wonderfulness of everything that Jaclyn Moriarty writes all day long, but I could also say:
Go read these books.
Because I can't explain it to you, if you don't know.
In The Year of Secret Assignments I got to hang out with the gang again (!) which includes:
Emily, Lydia, and Cassie (who have the starring roles :)
And then there's Charlie (whom I adore) and Sebastian (properly swoon-y) and Bindy Mackenzie makes a cameo appearance (don't let them be hatin' on you, Bindy :)
Personally, I really love Em: I know that Lydia is cool as a cat, much cooler than Em who has problems with hyperventilation and most definitely has a chocolate addiction and has the tendency to make fun of girls with lady-bug hair clips, but Em is FUNNY. And I relate to her in some really weird, completely irrational way. Plus, after reading The Ghosts of Ashbury High I have new appreciation for the Em/Charlie relationship. (Also, I have a confession to make: I thought Charlie was more swoon-y than Sebastian. I KNOW! But Charlie was funny and I couldn't stop grinning after the story about the chicken pie.
You talk like the lady who works in the shop where I get my curry chicken pie every afternoon on the way home from school. She has white hair, and every single day she says: "Ho ho! I know what you want, Mister Man! You want a sausage roll!" And I always say: "No, actually, I want a curry chicken pie." That's EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Also Charlie and Em were two people that you would never look at and say, "Yeah, I could see them together."
You just wouldn't.
It reminds me of this quote: “We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”
Lydia I didn't relate to as much though I liked that the book kicked off with an entry in her journal. I really love that journal. I want to scribble in a writing notebook that asks insane, maddening, absolutely nonsense (but completely funny) questions like her's. Also all of Lydia's letters would win the award for coolest if I were giving out awards like that (which I'm not. I'm a bit too diplomatic for that :) I liked the whole misunderstanding with the dope:
What should happen is this. You should send me some dope and I should sell it. Or use it. We should do it regularly. You send it, I sell it. It would be a bit like drug trafficking. I've heard that Brookfield has a marijuana plantation instead of a sports oval. So I guess it's easy for you to get. Or are they strict about who can pick it? I hope not.
And Seb! Obviously Charlie still owns my heart, but Seb was quite swoon-y and had the whole art/soccer thing going for him :) I like that he did both, that he wasn't a moody artist or a jock. He was just very authentic, and I liked that.
Also, because I've read this so many times you begin to pick up things about these characters like the fact that Seb likes Tom Waits. A few years ago, when I first read this, I didn't have a clue who that was and it didn't even register but now I can relate. Seb and I have things in common!
And Cass. There's this part in her diary entry that is just always running through my head:
You don't even know who I am. I'm not the kind of person who writes in diaries. That's one thing to know about me.
Cass is my best friend's fave character because all of the tragic things happen to her and she got ripped off in the humor department~ except once you read back you realize that Cass does have a few gems :) It's more like Cass got outshined except that Aussie edition of this book has a shout-out to Cass
And therefore, I conclude that I am in love with the original Aussie edition <3
Jaclyn Moriarty also has quite a way with families which I imagine must be from some personal experience, and in The Year of Secret Assignments, it's Em's Dad (remember those crazy reminders that he left for her in the fruit bowl before their lawyer conferences!? I know you do! :) And also Em's little brother, who molded chocolate into things like aeroplanes.
And one scene with Charlie's family that I have bookmarked so I can refer back to it if I need a good smile:
I'm eating my Coco Pops at the moment, and my mum is unfortunately using me as a pipeline to talk to the rest of the family, even though they are all also eating their breakfast right in this room. She's mad at everyone for some reason or another. "Charlie," she just said, "ask Kevin if he intends to put the entire jar of strawberry jam on his toast." "Kevin, Mum wants to know if you are you intending on--" "Yes, Chuck, you tell your mother that's exactly what I am intending." "Charlie tell Jess to stop spilling the Coco Pops all over the floor, and ask Kevin what he intends the rest of us should eat on our toast." "Jess get your hand out of the cereal box. Kevin, what are your intentions per the rest of our breakfasts?" "I haven't really given much consideration to the rest of the family, Chucko." "There's a purple dinosaur in here somewhere, I swear to you. Tell Mum about the purple dinosaur." "Mum, Kevin says he hasn't considered us and Jess wants the purple dinosaur." "Charlie, ask Jess if she is four years old, and please tell your father that his tie looks ridiculous with that shirt." "What's wrong with this tie? I love this tie. You gave me this tie. You love this tie! What's wrong with this tie?" As you will see, my dad just broke through the pipeline to defend his tie.
So because this could go on forever~ just read it.
(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.
Favourite Quote:"I like the way you took that whole journey to Balmoral without looking at me once. But all the time I felt like you were crinkling the corners of your eyes for me."
I ADORE this book. The Secret Year of Assignments is smart, warm and irresistible funny! This is the kind of book that makes you cheeks ache from smiling too much.
The Secret Year of Assignments is written in letters, diary entries, emails, notices, transcripts, summons and more. It is not just one person story but rather three character Emily, Lydia and Cassie. Their English teacher starts a pen pal assignment with boys from the rival high school Brookfield. And there the fun and rather crazy story begins.
Jaclyn Moriarty writing is brilliant. It's clever story is filled with humour and heart. The plot is entertaining and fun but underneath it deals with some deeper issues. And despite the fact this book is writing in mixed formats and various points of views, it was never confusing but rather effortless to read.
Now the character they are pretty amazing. Well crafted and fully alive. Em, Lyd, Cassie, Seb and Charlie all of them likeable, quirky and interesting. I think there friendship is what really makes them special. They would do anything for each and you can't help but wish you were part of their gang.
Their is is some romance and it is sweet and real and filled with plenty of awww moments. And the guys were definitely crush worthy characters especially Seb.
"Lyd, You're not making sense. I love your letters and I want you to keep writing them, if you want to. But you can't kiss a girl made out of ink and paper. Let's hang out together. Let's talk on the phone. You have to realise that boys don't write. Girls write. Boys don't. Seb"
Overall, The Secret Year of Assignments is wonderful story of friendships and a book that leaves you feeling good. I am off now to squeeze into my favourites shelf.
Bookers Challenge #2 - A big thank you and hugs to Teccc for picking this for me for the bookers challenge! Review coming soon....
I liked this very much, but I didn't expect less after reading Feeling Sorry for Celia. It was partly hilarious, partly cute and chicklitish, partly insightful, deep and disturbing and always interesting and cleverly crafted. Highly recommended.
What puzzled me first was the chronology. The novel consists of letters between three boy-girl-pen-pal-couples, diary entries, e-mails, unsuccessful efforts to fill a notebook for aspiring writers, special agent assignments, a court script and more. Occasionally the narration quickly changes from one letter exchange to the next, but in other parts there are - let's say - ten letters going to and fro between the same two persons. This results in the following letters referring to things which happened long before the last letter you've just read. Your brain - or rather mine - does a little flip and you're back on track.
★★1/2 Rounding this up just because its a sweet little light story - but actually I was pretty disappointed in this after the first book in the series Feeling Sorry for Celia, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The letter/email/note format in this book is honestly very clever & makes it an easy read, I really think Jaclyn Moriarty has a cool thing going on here. The story is cute & the characters quite charming & I totally understand why young adults especially love this. I'm so I'm not sure if its just because I read the two books fairly close together - but for some reason I just felt it was a bit too much after a while, it got a little boring, while light I didn't find it particularly funny. Also this book seemed a little more aimed at a younger audience maybe?
One thing I definitely did have a major problem with though, was that I did not feel that there was distinction in tone in any of the voices! I had to keep checking the start of the letter to see whose letter I was reading. All of the girls are bubbly, confident & sociable. Even Cassie, who claims to be shyer & more introverted, does not come across that way in her letters. I felt the same way about the boys. Charlie & Seb could pretty much be the same person & I felt that their letters were pretty long & sappy & lovesick which was decidedly UN-teenageboylike. The relationships just really developed waaay to quickly for my liking.
The thing with Matthew Dunlop/ Paul Wilson I found to be a bit odd & the ending kind of a mess I'm afraid!
Nevertheless, I will read the next one in the series (& I dont usually do series) because I think Jaclyn Moriarty has a lot going for her.
Not only does she bring some of the best epistolary writing I've ever read and feature some of the best character voices in ya lit, here Moriarty offers up one of those wonderfully impossible friendships. Lydia, Cassie, and Emily are so in tune with each other it hurts, and I want to hang out with them. In terms of trios I'd like to join, they fall very close to the reigning champ of Harry/Hermione/Ron.
They're wacky; they pull pranks; they swear; they keep secrets from each other; they mock their teachers; they have deep thoughts and occasional revelations, often against their will; they're believable.
Not to mention, Charlie and Seb are adorable. And I might be a little bit in love with Charlie, but that's beside the point.
*looks suspiciously at 2014 review* *shakes head* PEOPLES. I'm doubting my sanity again. Look at that staid, calm review below. Look at the cautious, 4 stars. DID I NOT READ THE SAME BOOK? I re-read this book and it was amazing. Easily 5-stars. Beautiful. Almost flawless. There is some language, but not enough to not give this book stars. I loved all the characters. I laughed and chuckled and chortled. I sighed. I gasped and feared for the characters. I can't believe I missed how good this book was in 2014. Maybe my standards are devolving. If that is the case, I don't care. I get more out of books now. Anyway, I have to go study for finals, but so this was a worthy Friday night distraction. Thanks for buying it for me at the library book sale, Dad!
2014 Review 4 Stars I am really starting to love this author. The Year of Secret Assignments contains sorrow, romance, mystery, fear, and letters. Lots and lots of letters combined with journal entries and witty comebacks. I felt comfortable entering the world of these three private school girls and their penpals at the local public school. Recommended for a teeny read with some deeper emotions and themes playing out.
Jo’s Official Rating. If the first half of this book was a person, I would send them a letter with (um.. this analogy isn’t going to work but I’ve already committed) an orange matchmaker taped to the bottom of it. Because they are my favourite. If the last few chapters of this book were a person, I would send them a letter with a lime Wine Gum taped to it. Because I’m not that fussed about them.
Trigger warnings: death of a parent (in the past), mental health, fat shaming, slut shaming, misogyny, violence (off the page but recounted afterwards).
This feels quite dated now, given that it was first published in 2003. But the epistolary format works surprisingly well, the characters are fun and their friendships felt authentic, and I laughed out loud multiple times. Although honestly, I think one of my favourite moments in it came not from the teenagers but from Emily's father bemoaning the loss of his VERY expensive wine because the girls were making chicken casserole and thought it needed some wine and grabbed a dusty bottle because clearly he wouldn't miss it. That, for some inexplicable reason, amused me to no end.
Well done, Jaclyn Moriarty! I had so much fun reading this book. Instead of spending all day cooped up inside the office I had to work outside and this (audio)book was the best type of distraction I could ask for. I kept laughing at loud and looking over my shoulder to check it anyone heard me acting like a loon.
Even though I marked this book as 'chick-lit' I think it's more suited for younger readers, those just starting with young adult novels. Doesn't have any sexy scenes, it's funny and offers great life lessons- except for the revenge part(Don't try to get even with anyone. It's not worth it).
I came across the name of this Australian writer on E. Lockhart's website. If I remember it right, she named Jaclyn Moriarty as an inspiration for the format of her own Ruby books. Of course, being as huge of E. Lockhart's as I am, I simply had to eventually check out Moriarty.
"The Year of Secret Assignments" is a book written entirely in the form of letters, notes, e-mail messages, etc. I love this format and it definitely makes the book one easy, quick and entertaining read. The story itself is pretty good too - three best girl friends are forced into correspondence with boys from a rival school. Misunderstandings, romance, fights, and adventures follow.
The book is marketed as a humorous story, but I honestly didn't find it as funny as, for instance, hilarious Georgia Nicolson books by Louise Rennison. In fact, whatever was supposed to be funny, seemed a bit weird to me, especially in the beginning of the book. Maybe I simply don't get Australian humor? However, as the book progressed and serious themes of friendship, trust, and loss came into play, I started enjoying the book much more and couldn't put it down until the big "mystery" was finally solved.
Overall, I enjoyed the book quite a bit. It was a nice combination of silly teenage romance, mystery, and drama. It certainly didn't change my world, but it was a nice departure from angsty paranormal YA romances I've been reading too much of lately. I will definitely give the author another try.
(3.5 stars) Despite the fact that I can't understand the reason for this novel (why would three girls be writing to three boys at a different school and why would Ashbury and Brookfield set up this penpal program? I don't buy the 'eliminating school rivalry' excuse...What's the educational benefit?), I loved the friendship among Lydia, Cassie and Emily. Despite being all being the daughters of lawyers, they're all so wonderfully distinct, and I enjoyed reading how their three different correspondences tied together into a bigger narrative.
Emily and Lydia have had luck with their penpals. Charlie and Seb respectively are funny and warm, definitely boyish, and occasionally full of fail. Pranks, dares, espionage, 'practicing how to date a girl' and glitter in envelopes ensue. Delicate Cassie, on the other hand, whose father recently passed away, gets a creeper named Matthew whose responses are nasty and threatening. Cassie keeps writing back though, and her friends can't figure out why. Maybe she just needs to write, and maybe an unsympathetic stranger is all she needs.
It's funny and heartfelt, and one of those epic ensemble stories where every character has a role to play.
What's not to love about The Year of Secret Assignments?! Jacyln Moriarty's writing style occasionally put me in the mind of Lemony Snicket minus the dark undertones. I enjoy stories presented in format that strays from the traditional chapter flow, and Moriarty does a good job of revealing the various characters' personalities through their letters and e-mails to one another. I know that a book has me under its spell when I am willing to sacrifice sleep on a school night to read "just a few more pages" (which inevitably will lead to reading much more than that), and thanks to Moriarty's original characters and compelling story, I did just that.
This was such a cute, fun book! I hardly every laugh-out-loud while reading a book and this was one of those book that you could hear me laughing constantly! If you want to read a book that's unique, funny, and just a cute contemporary I highly recommend this book! It will put a smile on your face and you won't want to stop reading!
And, by the way, you don't have to read the first book before this one. This book is technically a sequel, but it's a companion book and you won't be confused. I didn't read the first book and I was perfectly fine!
An amazing book. Hilarious and sweet. Loved all the characters. LOVED the Australian setting too, and inspired me to pick up some more Australia-set books.
After-the-fact thoughts on this book --
When I think about this book, I want to: 1) Cry -- because I can't re-experience the beauty/magic/charm of it all as though it was the first time. 2) Hug ALL the characters. 3) Re-read it. The whole thing.
My day started like this: I woke up(duh!(except I shouldn't duh considering you'd've had no reason to suspect that I'm not an insomniac)) to the sound of my personalized alarm clock- my mom, sorry didn't mean to talk about you that way but you kinda are, aren't you?-and I decided against taking a shower, as it had been barely seven hours since my last one. I got ready and all the shenanigans followed and ended with me parking my ass in my bus. Now, it might not seem like it considering my lethargic attitude as I settled down and threw my bag beside me so no one would even think of sitting beside me, and I slowly opened my bag after a bit of reflection to take out Becoming Bindy Mackenzie(which is the next installment in this series, btw)- but I had a test today. A computer test. Now here's an enigma! What's up with these computer exams? All the while, we treat it like a subject with fuck-all to teach and mock the kids who prepare for it- until our time arrives and nobody even remembers the cracks made earlier.
But back to the point. I considered my textbook peeking out of my bag and concluded that it had fuck-all to teach. I read Mackenzie, instead for a while until my friend arrived at my seat and I had to remove my bag. Course, she was studying alternately from her notes and the textbook, and I was trying not to get distracted. But she broke me down and with fifteen minutes to school, I began to revise and again, concluded that there was fuck-all to study.
Arriving at school, I did ten minutes of mingling and hopping and annoying. Then, oh sweet, sweet(it's salty but I think you get the point) Mozzarella, it was forty-five minutes of grueling track practice, under the hot, heavy sun, because the gods are cruel as the teachers. Trufax. Blah, blah, blah, shit went down, our school uniform was locked in, keys were missing, didn't get to take a bath. Then it was first period and it was computer and I tried to study, but had Geog homework to finish and continued with that, until I saw that the comp kreacher was correcting he comp homework and I had yet to do that! So there I was writing and copying and finishing, and there she was, looming closer and darker over my head but what is that divine sound I'm hearing? Oh, it that the bell? Hallelujah! The gods must be alive and not cruel, after all!
But fut-the-what?! I have already finished it and turns out mine and my partner's are the only assignments left to check, by luck, they said!
BY LUCK, they said I had spent a good portion of my time that I could have spent reading Mackenzie(realize that I'm not gonna type out the whole name anytime soon)!
By luck, it was that I happened to occupy in the backkest, corner-est seat! But I'll tell you something, it was not LUCK; it was schedule! The gods are, after all, smarmy, venomous creatures.
And it's test-time. See. Our school likes to spring these tests on us at any time. It could be the physics period(mostly, it's been physics(even for physics test)) or the math but today, it happened to be hindi period. Thank the gods, after all! Or not, because the last time I gave a test in hindi period, I ended up writing my friend's name on my answer sheet.
Turns out there was a little more than fuck-all to study.
Over now. English period, turns out the 1000-word essay I had spent my entire Sunday afternoon on, on the most asinine of topics- hell I even included references to HP and Doctor Who, and quotes from Jasper Jones, Dumbledore and F. Scott Fitzgerald- could not be accepted as it was written on a Legal-size paper and they wanted A4 size. Goodbye, English, you've lost my faith; continue on with your speaking skill activity and see if I give a fish whilst sitting in most corner-est of seat and reading Mackenzie.
Yada yada baba yaga, periods passed by, history teacher messed with my civis paper(he also teaches us civics) because he EXPECTS more, geog teacher fucked with geog papers because that's what she does, and FINALLY, I got read Mackenzie in a darkened room(ergo, straingin my eyes(my power may have increased))again as Mr No-name-I-remember showed us slides in math.
Briefly: I got home, finished Mackenzie and thought, hmmm... should get on with this review.
How does this now correlate to the review? Well, you see, this is MY year 10 and it's definitely not as awesome. Moreover, I felt really inadequate leaving this space with a tiny review or none at all. Nobody likes a stick in the mud. Not even the other sticks because the first one convinces them to procrastinate just a bit more and they PUT OFF ENTHUSIASM for a little more while. Also, I guess if I just wanted to ramble on, I should have reviewed Mackenzie since that was the one I finished today.
But you see? This is not like my Year 10 at all. Should I say Australian and leave at that? Don't answer that, I don't need/want to know! This is a Brilliant book. Just BRILLIANT. Its brilliance is so brilliant, it blinds me with the intensity of Ali Baba's cave with its golds and bauble, it's so brilliant even Apollo ditches his sun-chariot in Shanghai, and goes off to seek extremely tensile and magical ropes from Hephaestus in the mad, never-to-come hopes that one day he'll be able to enslave this brilliance that is brilliant-er than any supernova that ever burst(I think supernovas are very bright- they are, right?). Even the ever-acknowledged all-mighty creator of tampons and Nutella admits that this is a far brilliant-er creation. It truly is.
This Year 10 is awesome! There are three guys and three girls, and out of these six, on is not very great. The rest are epic and hilarious. It includes secret and non-secret correspondences, secret assignments, espionage, fake dating(which is real(but they pretend it isn't)), Seb Magenta, Lydia, trashing of school and a budding lawyer.
I loved the humor and the slightly darker themes going on- with Lydia's problems and Cassie's depression. But my favorite part- apart from Lydia and Seb's letters- was the friendship and loyalty. How the two girls-especially Emily, would rise up and get aggressive defending Cassie. The characters' personalities were excellent and I adore them all-with one exception. I love that the way we were introduced with the girls and how they changed. They are all so witty and unconsciously stupid and cool, I just want more
Sorry, had to go off there for what- one and a half hour! Obviously you wouldn't know that but I like to stay true to the spirit of the book I'm reviewing, and the characters here were fairly meticulous about their comings and goings.
Finding Cassie Crazy is based in heart, mischief and the fun in being a teenager. This is the domain of Jaclyn Moriarty and she excels at it; she weaves triviality and honesty into delightful tapestries of glory and magic and occasional moments of humiliation.
She is fun, fun, fun all round! She writes such humor, and her unique, unique, unique(in the hopes that thrice makes might) characters vibrate with liveliness! The multiple viewpoints were distinct and on the spot. I also love her way with words, how she controls it like a coachwoman with a hippocampus. It is engrossing as a train wreck(the magnitude, not the quality) and swooon-ful as a... someone swoonful?
Now you should go and re-
Did somebody say SEB FUCKING MANTEGNA? I'm sorry, but I gotta go- SOMEBODY JUST SAID SEB MMUMPHHH--------------
Content Warnings & Why You Might Move This Down On Your TBR: Harmful ▪ Two characters express fat phobic statements. One character challenged one of the fat phobic characters, but the conversation peters out and the author doesn't challenge the ignorance. ▪ The male protagonists express misogynist ideas. The female protagonists call them out but, again, the conversations don't really go anywhere and not everything is challenged. ▪ Self-harm is normalized. ▪ Men being violent is normalized and obviously also unchallenged. Specifically, men hitting others and hitting walls is normalized. ▪ Therapy and a therapist are made fun of and portrayed as unhelpful. Unenjoyable ▪ The male protagonists (love interests?) were unbelievable. ▪ A significant number of moments were unbelievable and not clever.
Why You Might Move This Up On Your TBR: ▪ I read this in one sitting; it was engaging and entertaining. ▪ I laughed out loud at one point. ▪ The author made use of the story's length by adding relational conflicts. ▪ The female protagonists were enjoyable. ▪ The author challenges the reader to think about a couple of topics. ▪ The friendship between the female protagonists was everything. ▪ Grief is explored decently enough? ▪ Lydia is memorable and her subsubsub story was unique enough to impress me. ▪ The story-telling was decently quirky.
I used to read this book on a yearly basis growing up and re-reading it after a few years I remember why. What a delightful book. I am a sucker for a book that doesn't tell the story in the typical novel fashion so I absolutely loved the letter/notebook/diary theme going on here. Jaclyn Moriarty did a fantastic job with that. And this book is just pure fun! I actually laughed out loud quite a few times reading this. This is a quick read too. Overall just a really enjoyable book.
Finding Cassie Crazy is about 3 best friends, Cassie, Emily and Lydia who attend a made-up, private, very well-to-do school in Sydney’s north west somewhere near Castle Hill. As part of year 10 English, they undertake something named the ‘Joy of the Envelope Pen-Pal Project’, which is all about no one taking the time to communicate properly anymore and everything taking two seconds via text or messenger or email. Cassie, Em and Lydia have to write letters to three boys from the famed Brookfield High (public school) where the kids are all tattooed criminals recently out of jail (apparently).
Emily gets Charlie, who has brothers with ties to local Mafia and motorcycle groups (and one of them is a cop). Lydia gets Sebastian who struggles with anger management and thinks of creative ways to gain himself more study time for his year 10 exams. Cassie gets Matthew Dunlop who initially threatens her with bodily harm and maybe even death if she will not stop writing to him (she continues) and then apparently un-thaws and begins writing back. The three of them get quite caught up in their Pen-Pals. They all get to know each other in different ways: Emily helps Charlie gain confidence to talk to the girl of his dreams, Lydia and Seb give each other ‘Secret Agent Assignments’ and Cassie pours her heart out to a stranger about her feelings regarding her fathers death on the recommendation of her therapist. As the couples all decide that they actually might kind of like each other, and it might be nice to meet up and chat in person, rather than just in a letter, one of them will tutor their Pen-Pal on a date, one of them will look the other in the eye, give them a rose and then walk away and another will betray their Pen-Pal in a cruel and vicious way, revealing everything about themselves to be fake. Then the book changes gear as the rest rally around the betrayed party and attempt to extract some revenge.
This book was so enjoyable! I wasn’t sure in the first few pages, which involved Lydia writing in this book her father had bought her about how to become a writer but as it moved to Emily’s lawyer father leaving her a letter containing multiple choice answers for what her parents were doing right now and expected her to do while they were away, and to the letters between the girls and their pen-pals at Brookfield High, I started loving it. Sometimes the book will include letters from all 3 of the couples in a row, but quite often it will be a section between Emily and Charlie, followed by a section between Lydia and Seb and then a section between Cassie and Matthew. This means that you do rehash things in a way, but from completely different points of view, including some people who were involved in events up close, and some that were just bystanders watching and some that just heard about it at a later date. I never got confused though and enjoyed the partnerships between the 6 teenagers, even the one that went horribly wrong! I didn’t really see that sort of thing coming and I was gobsmacked when I read what had happened. I really felt for the character that was betrayed and admired the resolve of the others to make the perpetrator pay.
The characters were funny and charming – Em who wanted to be a lawyer like her parents but was frightened she wasn’t going to get the grades, shines during a chance to prove her talents in a ‘mock trial’ that takes place at the end of the book. Lydia, the daughter of a Supreme Court Judge and faded TV star, is desperate to be a writer and can’t bear the thought that she may never be published. Her father gives her a ‘tutorial’ type book for aspiring writers with vague and mostly ridiculous questions and statements to answer or elaborate on and Lydia treats this book with the contempt it mostly deserves in her answers. Cassie lost her father to cancer last year and is still very fragile because of it, attending counselling sessions but closing herself off. When her therapist tells her to pick a stranger and tell them about herself, she chooses her Pen-Pal even though he has made it clear he doesn’t want to write to her. The boys from Brookfield have funny too, Charlie talking about his brothers and Seb trying to get out of sitting exams (but not really for the reasons that you think) and the un-thawing of Matthew is really very well written. And then the betrayal is exquisitely done.
As the Pen-Pal project seeks to fix the rivalry between the two schools, it will make it so much worse before it can get better. I think the format of entirely letters, memo’s, emails, post-it notes, notice board flyers etc would really appeal to students, plus they can relate to a lot of the high school drama going on. Definitely a good choice!
Operation Description: Write a review for this book that made you laughed like crazy in the middle of the night.
Warning: May contain inappropriate words for young children.
Synopsis: Three Girls, Three Boys, Two Rival schools. This could get Messy. The Ashbury-Brookfield pen pal program is desinged to bring together two rival schools in a spirit of harmony and the 'Joy of envelope'. But when Cassie, Lydia and Emiy send their first letters to Matthew, Charlie an Sebastian, things don't go quite as planned. What starts out as a simple letter exchange soon leads to secret missions, false alarms, lock picking, mistaken identities, and an all-out war between the schools -- not to mention some really excellent kissing.
Field Notes:, Funny, humorous, comical, amusing, facetious, ORIGINAL. This book had me choking on my barf because I was laughing too hard. (kidding!) Cassie, Lydia and Emily are kick ass funny characters, I never cried so much from laughing because of what they said, and they had Charlie, Sebastian and Matthew under their hook.
Quote: Favourite Quote: Boy's quote:
Quote: Favourite quote: Girl's Quote:
Field Notes #2: Try this, go 'awwwwwwwwwwwwwww' for the romance and 'you go girl!' for their friendship and 'Oh NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!' in a heartbreaking scene. This is 1960s all over again! Girl and boys who fall in love being pen pals! And I am so touched by the way Cassie, Emily and Lydia looked out for each other. Including coming up with the whole idea of : The Secret Assignment (which is so fifth grade but still.....)
Field Notes #3: I'm a shark, I don't swim in shallow waters. DEEP. DEEP. DEEP. Got it? *sigh* Translation :
Field Notes #4 : I'm starting to get a hang of this, stop me before I write something more! Okay okay, last one. HUGE PRAISES FOR JACYLN MORIARTY FOR HER FUNNY/ENTERTAININ/WITTY SENSE OF HUMOUR AND WRITING THAT REMINDED ME OF THE JOY OF WRITING LETTERS. (just had to get put that in capitals)
P.S: Do not read it when everyone is asleep because your laughter might freak your little brother sleeping next door.
P.P.S : Do not read it when your stomach feels WEIRD. Personal experience.
P.P.P.S : Make notes. For pranking reasons.
P.P.P.P.S :This review is of my personal opinion, so if you hate the book, don't mind my rambling. P.S I rated it 5 stars.
If you’re still here and reading this pathetic excuse for a review, then I might as well make it worthwhile and humour you with the following:
1.Jaclyn Moriarty and All Her Glory: Can we talk about how wonderful Moriarty’s way with words is? Because it is wonderful—she’s wonderful. She mixes genuine characters and witty, laugh-out-loud dialogue into a realistic yet quirky and hilarious novel. Oh, Jaclyn Moriarty, you slay me!
2.Fabulous Characters: Moriarty has written an ensemble of characters who are all funny, witty, charming, and realistic. Honestly, I love them all. (Except Dunlop. Eat shit and die, Dunlop.) Each of the characters have their own strengths, flaws, and experiences, and all together they formed this ragtag group of misfits, and I fell in love. I especially loved the friendship between the three main girls, Emily, Lydia, and Cassie. They were so real, and seeing the lack of angst between them (the kind we often get from other YA contemporaries), really caught me off guard. Even Bindy-freaking-Mackenzie made me laugh, and she had like three lines!
3.And An Even More Noteworthy Writing Style: The letter correspondence style of writing really hit close to home. As someone who has made so many new friends through the internet (and never actually meeting them, unfortunately), I found myself relating to these characters since they, too, were forming friendships through words and common interests...or lack thereof. And what’s even more amazing is that Moriarty is able to write this multi-perspective story and still maintain each character’s distinctive personality.
ONE MORE THING: The school notices and Bindy’s transcript were so quirky and generally hilarious (mostly on Bindy’s part). Someone give Bindy an award. What a scene-stealer.
4.Hijinks of Awesome: A letter correspondence project. Between rival schools. What could possibly go wrong? All the diary entries, pranking, scheming, transcript-writing, and those darn Secret Assignments are some of the defining moments in this book. I wish my grade ten year had been this interesting. Seb and Lydia’s first challenge says it all.
5.Charlie Taylor and Sebastian Mantegna: They’re cuties. Nuff said.
This books has got far too much personality than any YA contemporary should ever have. But who am I to complain?