Quick Review: The Year of Secret Assignments, by Jaclyn Moriarty

This is one of those rare YA contemporary that I read (I'm slowly reading more of them), and it happens to be written yet again by an Australian author (the preicous book was Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta). This is the second book I read by Jaclyn Moriarty after The Spell Book of Listen Taylor, which I thouroughly enjoyed and recommned. Since I had liked the first book, I was prompted to borrow another book of hers at the library and am very glad I did.

The entirety of The Year of Secret Assignments is told through letters, emails, notes, and journal entries that the characters exchange between each other. The book follows three best friends, Cass, Em and Lyd, as they start corresponding with three boys as part of an English exchange program between their two high schools who are too often at odds with each other. Ensues a series of hilarious and touching situations as the characters learn about each other and help each other in their hour of need.

I really enjoyed this book. It was quick and funny. I was iniatially scared that it would be too much for teenagers and that I would not be able to relate. So often YA authors try to sound like teenagers, but end up sounding silly and like adults who try to sound like teenagers, but I found that this was not the case with Jaclyn Moriarty. She gave all of her characters distinctive voices, never entangling herself in too much slang and gimmicks to try and make them sound like teenagers, and yet they felt like teenagers. This made them infinitely more endearing to me and proves that the author has very good characterization skills. And while there was romance and heartbreak, the book was first and foremost about friendship. About three girls who, even though different, love each other more than anything and would do anything to help and protect one another. And this is what made me love this book in the end. Too often nowadays YA fiction is solely about romance, espcially when novel have female protagonists, as if that's all young women really want, and forget about the true love that lies in friendship. I find friendship stories more interesting and lasting than most romantic stories and I am glad that the author showed that in her novel. I'll be sure to pick up her other books on my next trip to the library.


  1. This looks really good! I'll have to read it someday. I have a thing for epistolary type novels. :)

    And I agree about YA fiction being too much about romance. It gets really tiresome. I just want to shake the characters and say "You're both 14! He's not the love of your life!!!"
    Though, I feel like doing that in real life a lot as well... Haha. ;)

  2. @Melee

    I agree! I get so annoyed with all the romance in YA novels. I mean, I like love stories and all, but it's so pervasive now, that often the female protagonists don't even have real friends or relation with their families, it's all about the boy. It's all consuming and passionate and quite unhealthy and unrealistic. At least in those paranormal books. It seems to be a bit better in the contemporary genre, but then again I'm far from a specialist in this area.

    I really recommend Jaclyn Moriarty's work. Or at least the two books I've mentionned in the post, but I have a feeling that all of her novels are worth reading.