Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: 'The Year of Secret Assignments' by Jaclyn Moriarty


The sophomore class pen pal project is designed to improve relations between the private school students at Ashbury and the public school students at Brookfield.  In a series of letters and journal entries written by the Ashbury girls and the Brooker boys, The Year of Secret Assignments is an incredibly fun read.  Each of the kids have distinct personalities and character growth which drive the novel.  Lydia and her pal Sebastian trade secret assignments or dares as a way to develop trust.  Emily helps to train Charlie in how to attract girls.  Cassie uses her letters are a form a therapy, much to the annoyance of her jerk of a pen pal, Matthew.  Underneath the fun and games, they have to deal with some heavy topics such as the death of a parent, first love and what it means to be loyal. 
Something that is mentioned at the start of this book, which stuck with me while reading it is that part of the purpose of this assignment was to promote the old fashioned way of letter writing, which has gone almost extinct since the creation of email.  There is something to be said for taking a pen to paper and hashing a letter out long-hand, something more intimate.  I found myself nostalgic in a way I never thought I would be.
Parents and teachers should be warned that there is some profanity in the book, and the kids like to break rules now and then, but overall, they are good kids who will turn out right in the end.  Because there is such a variety in characters and points of view, I think most kids would be able to identify with at least one of them.  (I was soooo Lydia in high school!)  I found nothing too objectionable that I wouldn’t let a teen read it, but there are some who might. 
Overall, I give The Year of Secret Assignments
Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character development – 5 bookmarks
Moral lessons – 4 bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Molly Quinn (Emily), Naomi Scott (Cassie), Kaya Scodelario (Lydia), Cameron Bright (Matthew/Paul), Taylor Boggan (Sebastian), Cole Heppell (Charlie)

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