Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Series spotlight - Jaclyn Moriarty

There are so many good books that have been out in the market for ages. Series Spotlight will be featured every week and is to introduce readers to series they may not have heard of before. Usually, these series will be ongoing, like today’s spotlight – Jaclyn Moriarty’s Brookfield-Ashbury series.

This series is focused on two schools; private school Ashbury, and the nearby Brookfield, where all the students are rumoured to be ‘bunny-killers.’ Unlike most series, this does not follow the same main characters, it is mainly only the setting which remains the same. Characters from the other books do feature as minor characters, but for all intents and purposes, each book stands alone. This being so, you don’t have to read them in order, though it gives slightly more understanding if you do.

Feeling sorry for Celia:
Mainly told through post-it notes from her mother, letters from invented organisations, and letters to and from her new pen-pal Christina, this novel follows Elizabeth Clarry and her struggles between friends, school and family. Elizabeth is dealing with an irresponsible best friend who is always running away, a developing friendship between the pen-pal her English teacher makes her write to, and a posh father who has suddenly reappeared in her life and keeps taking her out to restaurants in the hope that they will bond. A mysterious stranger on the bus is slipping her anonymous love notes, her father is behaving decidedly shiftily about the step-brother she’s never met, her friend, Celia, has just run away to join the circus, and she
keeps getting letters from the ‘Association of Teenagers’ telling her to crawl into a fridge.
This book perfectly captures teenage quirkiness, the importance of things like school and friends and yet is very amusing. It also addresses more serious issues that teens face, parent’s divorce, unrequited love, the importance of new friendships and old friendships and self-confidence. It takes some getting into because of the format of the prose, but Jaclyn Moriarty manages to address these issues in a non-condescending way, while still making you smile from Elizabeth’s wry voice and the refreshingly honest take on such problems. It wasn’t amazing, but it was fun, entertaining and thought-provoking.

Finding Cassie Crazy (aka the Year of secret assignments):
Best friends Lydia, Emily and Cassie are forced to enter the Brookfield-Ashbury pen-pal project that Elizabeth met Christina in the year previously in ‘Feeling sorry for Celia.’ Through this they meet Seb, Charlie and Matthew, three very different boys from Brookfield. Much hilarity ensues, including misunderstandings, secret missions, prank phone calls, dating lessons, and the need for a whole lot of revenge. In her second novel, Jaclyn Moriarty brings such a realistic teen voice while being hysterically funny. However, like its predecessor, Finding Cassie Crazy is also surprisingly deep. When quiet, vulnerable Cassie is hurt by a Brookfielder, the girls leap to her defence. The attempted revenge includes perfumed letters, a small drama studio and a declaration of all-out-war. All about friendship, love, families and learning to follow dreams, this is by far the best of the books so far. Highly recommended for some adults, as well as most teens, it is both humorous and heart-warming.
Em - ‘Well, first you have to be very, very funny. I have realized that it is essential for a boy to be funny. Otherwise, what is the point in a boy?’
Charlie – ‘What do I do if I’m a boy and I’m not funny?’
Em - ‘If a boy is not able to be funny, then the boy should not talk at all. The boy should be completely silent.’

Becoming Bindy MacKenzie (aka the Murder of Bindy Mackenzie):
A year on from ‘Finding Cassie Crazy,’ sees Ashbury student Bindy in a Friendship-And-Development class. Bindy is the smartest girl in the year, and believes she is kind and popular, always offering to show people her exam results so that they can learn from her. However, in the first ‘FAD’ class, she discovers that all her efforts are wasted; she’s the most unpopular girl in the year. She is determined to take her revenge on each of the other classmates in her ‘FAD’ group. This story is engaging and fans of the other two books will be pleased to hear that Liz Clarry and Emily Thompson both have main parts. There is a mystery element in this one, but it is also about learning to make new friendships, depending on others, and just enjoying life.
Jaclyn Moriarty does a surprising job considering that Bindy is so dislikeable.
However, through the book as I learned more about the main character I found myself supporting her more and more, especially as she became more friendly and likeable as the book progressed. Once again the supporting cast are wonderfully characterised and I could easily believe that Moriarty had just gone into a school and recorded teens talking for hours on end. While the plot itself is slightly unbelievable, the writing allows you to suspend your disbelief. I would suggest that people read ‘Finding Cassie Crazy’ before this one as one of the reasons it is so fun is getting to see the characters from the other books, especially Em. ‘Finding Cassie Crazy’ is still my favourite by far, but this is a good addition to the series.

A fourth book is currently in the works, at the moment called ‘Shadowgirl.’ It features new main characters Amelia and Riley and apparently is also a ghost story. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.


  1. Congrats on the new blog! I love this idea, I've never seen someone post old series before. I love it! I don't think viewers have enough appreciation for old books. Everyone is always busy trying to read "the hot new thing". Anyways, I am a new blogger myself, today is day 8.
    I managed to snag a couple ARC's already, so if you are interested you should check out my contest!

    Keep on Bookin,

  2. I love this post! I just finished The Year of Secret Assignments (actually, it's my latest review) and loved it. I didn't know there was a book that preceded it until yesterday and I am definitely planning on getting it. I love how these are all parts of a series and yet they stand alone super well. I didn't feel lost at all as I read Secret Assignments.

    Lovely post!

  3. I love the fruit covers - so cute!

  4. Thanks guys :)
    Lenore - I love the fruit covers too, but the US year of secret assignments one is so cool too. I love comparing the covers of different editions

  5. This is such an interesting post! And I really love Jaclyn Moriarty's novels.