Sonderbooks Book Review of The Year of Secret Assignments

Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations

   cover

****The Year of Secret Assignments*

*Diary Entries, Rude Graffitti, Hate Mail, Love Letters, Revenge Plots, Date Plans, Notes Between Friends, and Famous Last Words

by Jaclyn Moriarty

Reviewed May 25, 2004.
Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), New York, 2004.  340 pages.
A Horn Book Fanfare 2004 selection.
Available at Sembach Library (JF MOR).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #1, Young Adult Contemporary Novels

This book is delightful and suspenseful and very hard to stop reading.  (Okay, I admit:  I read this one until I finished it at 2 AM.)  The students at posh Ashbury High in Australia have an assignment to write letters to students at nearby Brookfield, where, let us say, students have “more tattoos and prison time.”

Emily, Lydia and Cassie all do the assignment in their own distinctive way.  They’ve been friends since they were little.  Emily and Lydia are a little worried about Cassie these days, since her father died a year ago.  It doesn’t seem quite fair when Emily and Lydia start building friendships with their pen pals, but Cassie’s pen pal seems to be a sociopath.  Will Cassie’s persistent cheeriness break down barriers?  Will Lydia’s pen pal’s request for his school’s fire alarm to go off get them all in trouble?

The book is written in the form of letters, as well as diaries and notices and other written records.  You might not think that would end up exciting and suspenseful, but it does.  It’s fun to watch events unfold from different perspectives.  Jaclyn Moriarty does a fantastic job of telling the story this way.

Some of the kids are crude in spots, especially at the beginning when they’re trying to shock the Ashbury girls.  But mostly this is a fun, entertaining account of an important year in the lives of six high school students, and particularly three friends.

Review of another book by Jaclyn Moriarty:
A Corner of White

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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