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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bookanistas Review: The Year of Secret Assignments

Oh guys, are you ever going to love me. I have such a great book for you today—The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty. First, the blurb:
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.
I wasn’t so certain this would work. But if I have a single motto I have a million, and one happens to be: Always trust an Aussie.*

Still, I didn’t know how Jaclyn Moriarty would tell not one but three stories using nothing but letters, e-mails, and journal entries. But that’s because I didn’t know what a skillful storyteller Moriarty is. I stand corrected. This book rocked.

It’s not just that the characters were so fully developed I’m not entirely sure Emily, Lydia, and Cassie aren’t real Australian girls. Or that the story is equal parts touching and laugh-out-loud hilarious. It’s the voice.

Or, I should say, voices. Plural.

Here’s the thing: Moriarty doesn’t just nail teen speak. And she doesn’t just write in an overall amazing voice. No, she gives each of the three girls and three boys such incredibly different voices that I’d believe you if you told me a different writer penned each.

One of my favorite things about this book is the way Moriarty wrote Emily, who gives terrible advice and constantly mistakes one word for another. My favorite instance of the latter:

Also, I have seen on TV that you can get head transplants and it seems to me that it is a tragedy if you are bald and you don’t get a head transplant. My dad agreed with me heartily, and with much joy, when I pointed out that Lydia’s dad should get a head transplant.

But Moriarty doesn’t shove it in our face, reminding us constantly through other characters that Emily has the tendency to misinterpret phrases. It isn’t even until halfway through that Emily’s pen pal questions her about it.

There is so much more to love about this book than I have room to say. And, truthfully, I’d end up copying the whole book for you here because it’s pretty much all funny and quotable.

Oh, and if you enjoy this one, there are a few others in Moriarty’s Ashbury/Brookfield series, all of which have a place on my TBR list right now.

Here’s what the other Bookanistas are reading today:

Lenore Appelhans  is blown away by Reboot by Amy Tintera
Carrie Harris adores Beyond Dinocalypse by Chuck Wendig—with giveaway!
Tracy Banghart  & Debra Driza join The Girl Guide by Christine Fonseca book blitz!
Corrine Jackson is stunned by Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Nikki Katz  wonders at The Grave Winner by Lindsey Loucks
Gretchen McNeil talks Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green
Elana Johson admires Insomnia by Jenn Johannson
Katy Upperman fawns over Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Rebecca Behrens is wowed by The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

I’m in the mood for another hilarious YA book. Any recommendations?

* That is, when they write YA. I can’t be held responsible if you happen upon one who convinces you to stuff your arm in the mouth of a crocodile.

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