The Year of Secret Assignments, by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Year of Secret Assigments

None of the girls at Ashbury High School are pleased about the penpal program with Brookfield, the rival school. When best friends Cassie, Lydia, and Emily start their letter exchange with three Brookfield boys, they see it as a chore. But all three eventually find themselves drawn to their new penpals, setting off a series of secret missions and mistaken identities. A falling out between the girls and their penpals leads to a similar falling out between the three girls. When Cassie’s penpal turns out to not be the person they thought he was, the other four must come together to get revenge for Cassie and to prove that they did not vandalize the boys school.

This light novel, told mainly in epistolary form, was charming and funny. There was, however, one part of the novel that I found problematic. The climax happens when Cassie meets with her penpal in a park at night. The meeting is not shown or discussed for some time, we only see Cassie’s reaction. She is found sobbing by her friends and is unwilling to talk about her experience. From her reaction and the writing at this point in the book, my assumption was that Cassie had been assaulted or raped. While this seemed to be the books implication for several chapters, it eventually comes out that Matthew was just very unkind to Cassie. This fit in much better with the light-hearted tone of the book, and I wonder why it was made into a secret for so long, leaving the reader to assume something much worse.