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The Year of Secret Assignments

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Overview


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 ...

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The Year of Secret Assignments

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Overview


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.

Three female students from Ashbury High write to three male students from rival Brookfield High as part of a pen pal program, leading to romance, humiliation, revenge plots, and war between the schools.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Three Aussie girls become pen pals with three guys at another school in this delightful, high-spirited read by Feeling Sorry for Celia author Jaclyn Moriarty.

Told entirely through letters, diary entries, emails, and other writing, Moriarty's novel introduces us to Emily, Lydia, and Cassie -- all students at Ashbury High -- who begin writing to their Brookfield High counterparts through the schools' organized pen pal project. Readers learn quickly that each girl has her own writing style and that at two of the Brookfield boys (Seb and Charlie) seem to be smitten with Lydia and Emily. The only trouble is Cassie's pen pal, Matthew, a shady character who first sends her short, threatening letters and then becomes strangely sweet toward her. Nobody can figure out why Cassie keeps writing to him, but after she has a crushing meet-up with Matthew, Cassie discovers -- with the help of her friends and the Brookfield guys -- that he hasn't been honest about his identity. All could be ended there, but when Charlie helps take revenge and Brookfield High gets mysteriously vandalized, the group comes together to deliver justice and save the endangered pen pal project.

Fresh and impressive, Moriarty's novel is lighthearted fare that will keep readers glued to the end. In particular, her knack for capturing different writing styles shines the spotlight on her own talent, giving audiences clear inspiration to try their own diary or journal writing. Clearly centered on the girls while incorporating romance and fun guy personalities -- Rachel Cohn and Meg Cabot fans will eat this up. Shana Taylor

From the Publisher

Horn Book Magazine
STARRED (March 1, 2004; 0-439-49881-3)

(High School) From the author of Feeling Sorry for Celia comes a second comic novel about gal-pals--and pen pals--set in the same Australian high school and focusing once again on the Famous Ashbury-Brookfield Pen Pal Project. The novel follows private school students Lydia, Emily, and Cassie as they are assigned to write letters to students at Brookfield High, despite Emily's complaint to their English teacher that "it's probably against our constitutional rights to make us associate with drug dealers and murderers." The three girls have been friends 4-ever, but things haven't been the same between them since Cassie's father died a year ago, and Cassie gets even weirder once they begin writing to their pen pals, all boys. The novel--written entirely in letters, diary entries, e-mails, etc.--is fast and funny but not frothy. Moriarty's story is complex, original, and unpredictable enough that it's much more than a guilty-pleasure read. The format, along with the humor and romance, will draw Louise Rennison fans--and give them just as much flash, with a whole lot more substance. Copyright 2004 of The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved

School Library Journal
(March 1, 2004; 0-439-49881-3)

Gr 7-10-Lydia, Emily, and Cassie are longtime friends who share almost everything, especially the secret assignments that they have cooked up for one another in times of need since elementary school. When their English teacher assigns them pen pals (all boys) from rival Brookfield High, they strike out on their own to connect individually with their pen friends. Sebastian, Lydia's pal, is an artist who loves soccer and is intrigued by the covert assignments that she gives him. Emily's Charlie is a lot of fun and a true sweetheart, despite a few escapades such as stealing cars. Cassie's pen pal hates her and is rude and threatening. The story-told through journal entries, letters, e-mails, and notes-chronicles a year filled with spy missions, false alarms, lock picking, and a major war between the two schools that ends with a legal battle. The adventures of the friends are funny, exciting, and, at times, poignant as they deal with problems of growing up and developing relationships. This delightful book set in Australia is full of fun, engaging characters, and important messages about friendship.-Janet Hilbun, formerly at Sam Houston Middle School, Garland, TX Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Publishers Weekly
(February 2, 2004; 0-439-49881-3)

Once again, Moriarty (Feeling Sorry for Celia) uses an epistolary format to bring to life the voices of contemporary teens. Best friends Lydia, Emily and Cassie attend Ashbury, an Australian private school. Their "year of secret assignments" begins when their English teacher pairs them with pen pals from neighboring Brookfield High, a rougher school where students "have more tattoos and prison time." Although the girls are a bit wary about writing to strangers, their correspondence with boys their age spawns some interesting, often hilarious exchanges of confidences that lead to a series of clandestine meetings and daring escapades. Lydia and Emily form solid bonds with their pen pals, Seb and Charlie, but more vulnerable Cassie has trouble relating to her partner, a mysterious, cynical boy named Matthew, who (according to Seb and Charlie) does not exist. This energetic novel reveals the author's keen understanding of teen dynamics and invites audience members to read between the lines to discover what makes each character tick. Containing elements of mystery, espionage, romance and revenge, Moriarty's story will likely satisfy hearty appetites for suspense and fun. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Booklist
(January 1, 2004 STARRED)

Gr. 8-12. In her debut for youth, Mori

Publishers Weekly
"Once again, Moriarty uses an epistolary format to bring to life the voices of contemporary teens in an Australian private school," said PW, of this tale that contains elements of mystery, romance and revenge. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
At first glance, Emily, Cassie, and Lydia are self-absorbed, Australian private school girls enjoying a lifelong friendship and a comfortable life. When their English teacher institutes a mandatory penpal program with a nearby public school, however, the girls' correspondence with Charlie, Seb, and Matthew starts to reveal their insecurities, strengths, and strong bonds to their loved ones. Charlie, Emily, Seb, and Lydia carry on an interesting repartee, which eventually leads to crushes and dates and secret assignments. Quiet Cassie, however, still grieving the loss of her father to cancer, takes part in a very different exchange. Her penpal, calling himself Matthew Dunlap, at first refuses to write, and then sucks Cassie into a web of lies with nearly devastating results. Emily and Lydia eventually come to her rescue, and with the help of Charlie and Seb, the group turns the tables on Cassie's miscreant correspondent. Told entirely in letters, e-mail messages, and journal and diary entries, this story is truly an original. Although the opening pages might lead the reader to believe that they are about to enter into a world of fluff, the characters are surprisingly well developed, and teens of both genders will become caught up in the lives and adventures of these six high school students. The author artfully weaves the correspondence of the three pairs into one fluid story and includes both humor and serious food for thought. Probably best for junior high students, the lack of sexual content and language makes this book a great choice for both school and public libraries. VOYA Codes 3Q 4P J (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to9). 2004, Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 352p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Kimberly L. Paone
KLIATT
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2004: A wonderfully imaginative, difficult to describe novel from the author of Feeling Sorry for Celia. Basically, it is a school story, set in Australia. Three girlfriends, Em, Lyd, and Cassie, attend an all-girls high school. Their English teacher arranges a letter exchange with an English class in the local public high school, and the three girls start exchanging letters with three boys. That's the basic framework, but it hardly begins to describe what transpires—a series of "secret assignments," many of which are imaginative school pranks, some of which are flirtatious rendezvous, some of which are plots of vengeance. The three girls are highly intelligent, articulate, and imaginative. Two of the boys are as well, and the third boy deserves all the wonderfully fitting punishments the others eventually inflict on him. Cassie is the most fragile, because she and her mother are still trying to recover from the death of Cassie's father. Her friends are extremely concerned about her, and they try to protect her, even if she insists on keeping her own secrets and hiding her own vulnerability. This YA novel is told in an alternate format, since letters and e-mails tell this story: not just one person's letters, not an exchange of letters between two people, but six people writing letters in various combinations. This is intelligent fun. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Scholastic, 340p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Lydia, Emily, and Cassie are longtime friends who share almost everything, especially the secret assignments that they have cooked up for one another in times of need since elementary school. When their English teacher assigns them pen pals (all boys) from rival Brookfield High, they strike out on their own to connect individually with their pen friends. Sebastian, Lydia's pal, is an artist who loves soccer and is intrigued by the covert assignments that she gives him. Emily's Charlie is a lot of fun and a true sweetheart, despite a few escapades such as stealing cars. Cassie's pen pal hates her and is rude and threatening. The story-told through journal entries, letters, e-mails, and notes-chronicles a year filled with spy missions, false alarms, lock picking, and a major war between the two schools that ends with a legal battle. The adventures of the friends are funny, exciting, and, at times, poignant as they deal with problems of growing up and developing relationships. This delightful book set in Australia is full of fun, engaging characters, and important messages about friendship.-Janet Hilbun, formerly at Sam Houston Middle School, Garland, TX Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Like the namesake in Moriarty's bestselling Feeling Sorry for Celia (many clever references creep in), three more Aussie teens must establish pen pals at a rival public high school. This time risk-taker Lydia, self-assured Emily, and grieving, inhibited Cassie are all matched with boys who take an interest in them, resulting in dating lessons and plenty of covert operations. While Emily and Lydia's correspondence leads to romantic involvements, Cassie's mysterious, narcissistic pen pal turns cruel. It takes drastic measures, like secret assignments, to rescue Cassie from plummeting self-esteem and teach her pen pal a lesson in respect. This year of letter writing not only strengthens the girls' friendship, but also guides them to find their own resolve. This story does not feel as fresh as the author's debut, as it borrows too much from Celia, such as a variety of writing formats (letters, diaries, e-mails, guided writings in the Notebook™, etc.), a parody of lawyers instead of ad executives, and madcap adventures with equally zany resolutions. But who can resist Moriarty's biting humor? (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439498821
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/1/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author


Jaclyn Moriarty grew up in Sydney, Australia, with 4 sisters, 1 brother, 2 dogs, and 12 chickens. She studied law at the University of Sydney, Yale, and Cambridge, and worked as an entertainment lawyer before she wrote the Ashbury High novels, including THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS, THE MURDER OF BINDY MACKENZIE, and THE GHOSTS OF ASHBURY HIGH. She still lives in Sydney, with her little boy, Charlie.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 176 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(128)

4 Star

(29)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 176 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 23, 2009

    The Year of the Secret Assignments

    At first glance I was easily drawn to this novel. With an unique story plot unlike most books, it caught my attention and created curiosity. With few naration paragraphs, letters from three girls to three boys dominated this novel. As a class assignment issued from the teachers, Cassie, Lydia, and Emily exchange letters to Matthew, Sebastian, and Charlie during the pen pal program. Since the girls and boys are from rival schools, the six immediately send hate words to one another creating a messy distruction. Though this story seemed very interesting and the format of it was captivating at first, by the middle of the book, it grew tiresome. Just for one event to take place took multiple pages of the book and I felt the narration should have taken at least half the numbers of them. Besides my opinion on the format of The Year of the Secret Assignments, I believe Jaclyn Moriarty was brilliant pairing each girl with a boy. The numerous unexpected events truly brought out excitement in this novel making it a great piece of literature. The little bits of humor throughout the book made me laugh and Moriarty did an excellent job bringing out the images of six high school students. This is great when you have free time on your hands and wish to stress free.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Okay.

    This book is okay. It is a good book to just read for fun. There is no lessons or anything to gain from it. It was a fun read because it contains letters and email and other cool things besides the actually writing. It was a clever story line, but not one of my favorite books. If you like this book, read The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie. They are tied together to make it even more interesting.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    LOVE IT

    If i could give this book more stars i would. it was so funny it made me laugh out loud and at some points made me want to cry and the way it was written made me feel like i was realy in the caractors' heads. I recomend this book to ANY ONE

    P.s READ IT BECAUSE ITS AMAZING!! YOU WILL LOVE IT :

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2012

    This is an amazing book

    This book is one of the best I ever read because it is so funny and full of life!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Funny, Fast read.

    I checked this book out from my library due to a recommendation from a friend. The cover design really caught my attention. But the style that is was written in-letters, email, bulletins-is what made it a super fast read.This book was incredibly funny as well, enough to make me laugh out loud. There was enough suspense to hold my attention and keep me flipping the pages.There were a lot of negative themes though, such as shoplifting, pranking, cheating, ect. But with out it, it wouldn't have allowed the characters to be the unique, trouble some people they are.Overall this book was a easy, funny, enjoyable, fast-read. And I would definitely recommend it to my friends.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2012

    Recommended

    Cute, quick read I really enjoyed it. I liked the format of letters and emails-the notice boards and meeting notes were especially fun to read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Awesome

    This book is funny and very witty yet there are intense parts. Definetly worth the buy

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2012

    Amazingtastic

    This book was soooo good that i reread right after i finished it for the first time. Jaclyn moriarty is SUCH a good writer! <3'ed it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2011

    Coolio

    This is such a good book. It gets a little confusing sometimes.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Loved it

    I love this book. I read it in the library and had to buy my own copy. I love the characters and the way it's written in letters, etc. I would definitely recommend this.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2011

    Excellent! Really Funny!

    I found The Year of Secret Assignments to be captivating from the start. It combines sarcastic humor with mystery, and a pinch of romance. There are parts in the story where I find myself laughing out loud. The first time I read it I could not put it down until I finished it. I was hooked after the first ten pages. The plot is about three high school girls named Cassie, Emily, and Lydia. They attend Ashbury High School in Sydney Australia. They have an annual pen pal program with their rival school Brookfield High. Incidentally the girls end up writing to three boys named Matthew, Charlie, and Sebastian. They meet up and it leads to conflicts between the schools. The book is written in a series of diary entries, transcripts, e-mails, and letters between schools. There is no actual dialogue. I thought that without dialogue the story was explained better. People can read it with a different point of view. Having no dialogue made it all the more interesting. Though sometimes I got confused and had to reread and clarify. The language in this book wasn't always appropriate. (I couldn't tell what some of the words were because the libraries copy was vandalized.) I would recommend this book for people thirteen and up who are interested in a humorous book. This is definitely a page turner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 7, 2011

    Fun-filled read

    Such an awesome book! I was laughing more than half of the time. Great characters and plot. I love how it's all letters and such instead of the regular set-up. Although I wish she would have gone more into detail about their dates. I wish there was a sequel! Or at least a better ending, although I'm the kind of person who hates when the authors leaves you hanging, so don't think that the book is bad. Actually, it's really, really good. ^^

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2011

    AMAZING BOOK!

    i found this book when i was a sophomore in high school, ate through it in around 2 days. loaned it to a friend. and then never got it back and have since lost touch with the friend. i read a book similar to this called dash and lilys book of dares (same authors who wrote nick and norah's infinite playlist) and it reminded me of this book but i had forgotten the title until today. so glad i found it again :D highly recommended!!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    amazing

    this was a really great book. i finished it really fast.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    I LOVE this book!!!

    This book is so so so good. I love the characters (well, most of them) and the story is really different from things that I normally read. This author is great. But I suggest reading "Feeling Sorry for Celia" first. That one is great too. Everyone should read this book. :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    LOVED IT!

    This book is soo good i loved it. it was cute and sad and diffrent liked it alot love the end C:

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Cana Rensberger for TeensReadToo.com

    THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS by Jaclyn Moriarty has an interesting format. It is written entirely without dialogue. "What?" you say. It's true. The entire novel uses letters, diaries, journals, emails, and transcripts to tell the story. It's quite intriguing. <BR/><BR/>Three best friends, Cass, Emily, and Lydia, embark on an adventure that begins as a pen pal assignment in their English class. They each end up with male pen pals from their rival, Brookfield High. It quickly becomes evident which of the girls is writing, as the voices of the girls are quite distinct. I had a little more difficulty identifying two of the boys and remembering which girl they were writing to. The third boy's voice was quite distinctive. <BR/><BR/>Through a series of secret assignments the year 10 pen pals get to know one another, challenging each other to attempt various tasks. Just as they become comfortable with one another, feelings get hurt and the letters come to a halt. One pair of letters becomes downright frightening. When a true identity is uncovered, letters resume with a flurry of intensity, until vandalism begins at both schools and all students are ordered to stop writing. When the three girls are summoned to the office, they must rely on their pen pals to uncover the truth. <BR/><BR/>I would recommend this book to my students. The voices are fun and authentic. Although the pacing of the book is somewhat slow at the beginning, probably due to trying to keep the characters straight, it picks up significantly as they forge relationships with their pen pals. The ending is both surprising and satisfying.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2008

    wow.

    i was amazed by this book. i now absouloustley love this author. THIS IS A MUUUUUUST READ! i couldn't stop reading. its funny, its sad. everything (: READ.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2008

    Loved it!

    I am a 12 yr old from Rhode Island. I love this Book so much! I took it out of the library, and couldn't put it down! Girls of my age and older should definatly read this, but not younger, cuz of some language. Good Book!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2008

    love it!

    this book .was great. at first i took it out because i couldn't find anything better but then after 10 pages i hooked into it. it was funny and was such a good book! i recomend it and give it 5 stars :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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