Title: The Year of Secret Assignments
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
What it's about: Lydia, Emily, and Cassie are three best friends in high school. For an English class assignment, they're assigned pen pals at Brookfield High, a rival school. Initially the project is just a silly diversion for the girls, but as they start to connect with their pen pals, complications crop up.
What I thought: This was one of those books that I picked up with a healthy dose of skepticism. Surely, thought I, a book with a goofy-looking cover that is told in epistolary form with all sorts of cutesy fonts and a focus on the adventures of a group of teenage girls, surely this is going to be like something off of the Disney Channel, with cliched, dramatic plotlines and cardboard characterization. But no. I was oh so pleasantly surprised, right from the very first page. Lydia's quirky writing style had me hooked and interested. And as the other two girls were introduced, I couldn't help liking Emily for her innocently self-centered outlook and Cassie's flippant sarcasm. Of course, I'm doing the girls injustice with those descriptions; they're deep, well-developed character who can't be described fully in anything less than the course of, well, the novel. And that's what happens, because this book is really all about the character development of the girls and their Brookfield pen pals. I found the relationship between Emily and Charlie to be cute, and I was of course moved by the result of Cassie's correspondence. My main beef was that while the climax of the story was certainly exciting and dramatic, it seemed just a little too... pat. Rushed? Mm. It still worked and wasn't enough to make the book bad, it was just not quite as awesome as I would have thought it could be. Still, don't let that dissuade you from reading The Year of Secret Assignments.
Overall: A highly engaging piece of teen fiction.