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The Year of Secret Assignments

by Jaclyn Moriarty

Published by Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic Press, 2004
340 pages
ISBN: 0439498813

Ages 14-17

For an unlikely English class assignment designed to decrease hostilities, Cassie, Emily and Lydia are supposed to become pen pals with teens from a rival high school. E-mails, notes passed during class, letters, and diary entries reveal the characters of these girls and the power of their friendship, while setting the stage for new relationships with their pen pals. At first, the girls donít take the assignment very seriously, and each has a different intention for her letters. Inevitably, the supposed freaks and monsters at Brookfield High become more interesting than the girls could have imagined, at least for Emily and Lydia. But Cassieís pen pal writes scathing, hurtful letters that begin to undermine her already fragile psyche. The six teens become involved in pranks and subterfuge, of which they are guilty, and blamed for crimes, of which most are not guilty. The reader is privy to thoughts to which even best friends have no access in a book that balances lighthearted fun with a more serious exploration of personal struggles and the value of friendship. One of the most impressive and satisfying qualities of Jaclyn Moriartyís narrative is the way she integrates formal language to demonstrate the intelligence of the characters into their informal speech and writing, the humor of which rings true CCBC categories: Fiction for Young Adults.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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