Published: April 1st, 2005
The Year of Secret Assignments (Ashbury/Brookfield # 2)
By: Jaclyn Moriarty
(Originally published November 30th, 2003 as Finding Cassie Crazy in Australia)
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.
Cassie, Emily and Lydia are best friends who go to Ashbury High. Their somewhat crazy English teacher Mr. Botherit has decided to start a pen pal program with their rival school, Brookfield, and the girls are forced to take part in it. Told entirely in letters, e-mails, diary entries and other scribblings, this book follows the girls through the year charting their relationships with the boys from Brookfield. Lydia and Emily both begin to form friendships or more with their pen pals, Seb and Charlie. On the other hand, Cassie's pen pal "Matthew" starts off threatening and then leads he on, lying about who he is and what he wants from her. But when Brookfield begins getting vandalized, the pen pal project might be destroyed for good. It's up to the guys and girls to pool together and find out who's responsible for the trouble and fix things for good. I read this book earlier in the year and I really enjoyed it. Cassie, Lydia, Emily, Seb and Charlie all have distinctive voices and they develop as characters over the course of the book so much. I also liked "Matthew" even though he wasn't the best person in the world. The guest appearances by Bindy McKenzie were absolutely hilarious, she is such an interesting character. I loved how different all the girls are from each other and how their friendship is strong because of it, not in spite of it. The whole secret assignments thing made me laugh so hard and it was absolutely adorable! :) I liked the Matthew Dunlop situation, if only because it brought this book to a whole other level. My only real complaint is that Cassie was kind of stiffed on a love interest. This was one of the better books I read this year and the epistolary form is a charming thing in this one.
VERDICT: 3.90/5 Stars
*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.*