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Pants' Books & Stuff!

Hi there! I imagine you must be wondering what the heck is up with my blog name. The short answer is, Pants has become my internet handle in a lot of places where I hang out (somehow). I mainly read YA and comics, and I also frequently read speculative fiction of pretty much any kind. My other hobbies include watching anime and playing video games. Other random tidbits: I have a Bachelor's degree in English Literature and a Masters in Library and Information Sciences. I also have an affinity for tea.
The Year of Secret Assignments - Jaclyn Moriarty
Review originally posted here.

Why I Read It: I thought Feeling Sorry For Celia was hilarious and endeavoured to read the rest of Moriarty's books sent in Ashbury and Brookfield. I'll try to remain spoiler-free in this review, but there are some things that toe the line, so if you're paranoid, just skip to Final Verdict:.

I'll start off by saying this: I didn't think this book was quite as funny as Feeling Sorry For Celia; FSFC had me laughing out loud... loudly. And when I wasn't LOLing, I was giggling a lot. This book WAS funny and did make me laugh out loud at times, but never as frequently and never as loudly as FSFC. I also found the humour in this book to just be STRANGE sometimes. Is it some kind of Aussie humour I'm not picking up on? Who knows. With that said, however, I still enjoyed the hell out of this book.

Despite this book being considered the second in a series, it can definitely be read on its own. There are some cameo appearances of our beloved Elizabeth Clarry and her pen pal Christina, and the little that we glean of them in this novel will make you think "OH YEAH, I remember reading all about that!!", but other than that? You're not missing anything.

It's all written in the same style as FSFC; it's epistolary format, so it's mostly compromised of the letters that the three girls and their male pen pals write to each other, as well as diary entries, school announcement, e-mails, and subpoenas that Emily's father writes to her (for little things like summoning her to dinner, for example). What I love about Moriarty's style is that I find epistolary novels require a suspension of disbelief; no one writes letters like they're writing a novel (all the detail; dialogue; etc.) and try as I might, that always bothers me (even when I'm enjoying the story proper.) Moriarty always makes me forget about all that though.. I feel like I'm reading honest to goodness LETTERS! Yes, there is sometimes quite a lot of detail put into the letters, and there is quite a bit of dialogue at others, but not so much that I'm ever thinking "Do people ever write letters like that? I don't think I would."

Moriarty also balances the light-hearted humorous stuff with the more serious subjects with a deft hand. There's obviously lots of humour and flirtation going on between Emily and Charlie as well as Lydia and Sebastian, but then there's a THING that happens to Cassie about halfway through the novel and it makes everything SUPER SAD!! Well, not everything because there is still some humour sprinkled throughout, but there is definitely a mist of sadness permeating everything. But it worked, because really, that's life! Life isn't always happy good times, nor is it always a bummer and an After-School Special. The issues that Cassie must deal with -- her father's death that she's still reeling from a year after the fact; the bullying she faces at the hands of her pen-pal (not much of a pal, but you know); dealing with her depression and learning to cope with all of these things -- are all handled with respect, even when there are funny shenanigans going on elsewhere.

The characters themselves, best friends Lydia, Cassie and Emily, are AWESOME and I'd love to be friends with them in real life. I would love to have friends as tight-knit as them and it makes me miss the strong bonds of friendship I had in high school who I've since drifted from sadly. And I loved how their friendship jumped off the page. You rarely ever see the girls actually talk to each other -- you only ever see it second-hand in their accounts to their pen-pals -- but it was such a sincere and TRUE friendship. So even though there are many boys and much flirtation and kissing in this book, it still passes the Bechdel test (the girls do talk about much more than boys too thankfully.)

I did have issue with the ending of the book though. There was such HYPOCRISY. I understood the girls wanting to keep their letters and diaries private and making such a fuss over it, because privacy is kind of sort of important and being charged on hearsay is BS, but then to go and break into someone's room so that you can incriminate him..? Isn't that kind of EXACTLY what the school wanted to do? But it's okay for THEM obviously because the person they were condemning deserved it (and he did... he did A LOT) but just UUGHH!! And it's even admitted that the evidence was found in the guy's bedroom and no one says anything? I don't know.. it just bugged the hell out of me.

And I was kind of annoyed with the tiffs that Emily and Lydia had with their pen-pals. It's not long-lived thankfully, and I had to remind myself that I've gotten into stupider arguments with my friends when I was their age, but it reminded me why reading about teenagers can be annoying sometimes.

But other than that? LOVED THIS!! I've already read the third book in the series and plan on reading the fourth in the very near future.

Final Verdict: Moriarty has once again written an amazing epistolary novel (that makes me forget my hang-ups with epistolary novels) that balances humour and serious issues perfectly. The main characters were quirky, ridiculous, but completely lovable and I wanted to be a part of their wonderful little clique because their friendship was so enviable. This wasn't quite as funny as Feeling Sorry For Celia, but that book set the bar quite high, to be honest. Even if you haven't read Feeling Sorry For Celia, don't hesitate picking this up -- the book stands perfectly find on its own.