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The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

While everyone else has been taking "blog vacations" and posting about how they might not be posting for a week or two, I have inadvertently done the same thing (only without letting anyone know). So, no, I have not fallen off the face the earth, I've just had a busy couple of weeks.

First, I was house-sitting/dog-sitting for some family friends, and so I didn't really have access to the Internet (except for at work... and work has been especially crazy). Then, almost as soon as I moved back home, my family's dog died (of old age), and our house was taken over by fleas, which resulted in having to call an exterminator and stay in a hotel for a night (and the hotel didn't even have wi-fi!). And then, there's the fact that my boyfriend is heading back up to school on the 18th (sob!), and so I'm trying to spend as much time as I can with him before he leaves (sob!)

But this hasn't stopped me from reading... just from posting about the books I've been reading. So, I'll continue with my gushing over Australian authors. This time: Jaclyn Moriarty. I read The Murder of Bindy Mackensie for the Cybils, and I loved it, but it somehow got lost in a backlog of reviews. So, when The Year of Secret Assignments just happened to come through the book-drop while I was finishing Saving Francesca (by Melina Marchetta, see my previous review), I figured it was the right time*.

The Year of Secret Assignments, is, like Moriarty's other novels, written in a series of letters. Mainly, these letters are between the three main characters, best friends Cassie, Lydia, and Emily, and the three boys from a neighboring school who become their pen-pals (thanks to an assignment from their English teacher). Of course, seeing as the pen-pals are boys, all sorts of romantic interesting-ness follows... though I hate to give away any more detail than that.

Moriarty's writing is breezy and light, and I found myself reading "just one more letter" every time I tried to set the novel down. The plot twists are brilliant; there are so many small, seemingly insignificant events that suddenly fall into place later in the novel. The characters too, are true individuals, and their personalities really come through in their letters (I don't know how Moriarty does this, but it's brilliant!).

Only problem... this book just won't stay on the shelves. I've tried several times recently to recommend it to teens, only to find that it's already checked out**.

Also, a quick warning: The Year of Secret Assignments was originally published in Australia under the title Finding Cassie Crazy. I almost made the mistake of requesting the latter by Inter-library Loan.

*Never mind the ever growing stack of books that I have at home....

** Actually, everything I tried to recommend was already checked out... Kiki Strike? Checked out. The Boyfriend List? Checked out. An Abundance of Katherines? Checked out! What's wrong with these teens? Why do they keep checking out all the good books??? ;)


Jackie Parker said...

I think that this novel is brilliant. You reach this point where suddendly, unexpectedly, the novel becomes completely different. You have to re-evaluate everthing and you find out that it isn't such a light read after all - there's considerable depth. I was just so darned impressed. I became an immediate fan.

Sara said...

Have you read Feeling Sorry for Celia? I read it almost immediately after this, and it made be absolutely sure that Moriarty is a genius. I mean, it is written in the exact same format (pen-pal letters), and yet the plot is completely original! (Of course, it was written first, so I guess I should really say that this one is original).

And I'm so jealous that you got a review copy of The Spell Book of Listen Taylor!!

Court said...

I really love this book - it was positively adorable. I haven't read The Murder of Bindy Mackensie yet, but I hear it has all the same characters so I'm quite excited to pick it up. :)

Sara said...

Yes, most of the same characters are in The Murder of Bindy Mackensie (though in supporting roles).

And if you haven't read it yet... look for Feeling Sorry for Celia too. It takes place in the same high schools, with the same letter exchange program... and is still completely original!

Brian Mandabach said...

I love that "one last letter" phenomenon. That, and the fact that if flies off the shelves, is high praise.

Sorry about your doggie. :(

TadMack said...

I'm not sure which I love more - The Year of Secret Assignments' or Feeling Sorry for Celia. I believe the latter wins by a teensy margin.

The Murder of Bindy McKenzie is going to be a surprising and radical departure, in a way... so be prepared!!

Sara said...

Thanks Brian!

And Tadmack, I think I agree with you, though if I read them again, I just might change my mind.

And you're right... The Murder of Bindy McKenzie is a bit... different. (and now I want to read IT again too!)

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