All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Finding Cassie Crazy – Jaclyn Moriarty

on December 9, 2010

A few months ago I read a book called What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty and I think I was talking to Shannon from Giraffe Days at the time and she said that she thought Liane Moriarty might be Jaclyn Moriarty’s sister. I didn’t know of Jaclyn Moriarty but the name is unusual and not easily forgotten so when I was browsing the YA section of my local library the other day, I came across quite a few novels of Jaclyn Moriarty and picked up this one, Finding Cassie Crazy, to take home.

So. Finding Cassie Crazy is about 3 best friends, Cassie, Emily and Lydia who attend a made-up, private, very well-to-do school in Sydney’s north west somewhere near Castle Hill. As part of year 10 English, they undertake something named the ‘Joy of the Envelope Pen-Pal Project’, which is all about no one taking the time to communicate properly anymore and everything taking two seconds via text or messenger or email. Cassie, Em and Lydia have to write letters to three boys from the famed Brookfield High (public school) where the kids are all tattooed criminals recently out of jail (apparently).

Emily gets Charlie, who has brothers with ties to local Mafia and motorcycle groups (and one of them is a cop). Lydia gets Sebastian who struggles with anger management and thinks of creative ways to gain himself more study time for his year 10 exams. Cassie gets Matthew Dunlop who initially threatens her with bodily harm and maybe even death if she will not stop writing to him (she continues) and then apparently un-thaws and begins writing back. The three of them get quite caught up in their Pen-Pals. They all get to know each other in different ways: Emily helps Charlie gain confidence to talk to the girl of his dreams, Lydia and Seb give each other ‘Secret Agent Assignments’ and Cassie pours her heart out to a stranger about her feelings regarding her fathers death on the recommendation of her therapist. As the couples all decide that they actually might kind of like each other, and it might be nice to meet up and chat in person, rather than just in a letter, one of them will tutor their Pen-Pal on a date, one of them will look the other in the eye, give them a rose and then walk away and another will betray their Pen-Pal in a cruel and vicious way, revealing everything about themselves to be fake. Then the book changes gear as the rest rally around the betrayed party and attempt to extract some revenge.

This book was so enjoyable! I wasn’t sure in the first few pages, which involved Lydia writing in this book her father had bought her about how to become a writer but as it moved to Emily’s lawyer father leaving her a letter containing multiple choice answers for what her parents were doing right now and expected her to do while they were away, and to the letters between the girls and their pen-pals at Brookfield High, I started loving it. Sometimes the book will include letters from all 3 of the couples in a row, but quite often it will be a section between Emily and Charlie, followed by a section between Lydia and Seb and then a section between Cassie and Matthew. This means that you do rehash things in a way, but from completely different points of view, including some people who were involved in events up close, and some that were just bystanders watching and some that just heard about it at a later date. I never got confused though and enjoyed the partnerships between the 6 teenagers, even the one that went horribly wrong! I didn’t really see that sort of thing coming and I was gobsmacked when I read what had happened. I really felt for the character that was betrayed and admired the resolve of the others to make the perpetrator pay.

The characters were funny and charming – Em who wanted to be a lawyer like her parents but was frightened she wasn’t going to get the grades, shines during a chance to prove her talents in a ‘mock trial’ that takes place at the end of the book. Lydia, the daughter of a Supreme Court Judge and faded TV star, is desperate to be a writer and can’t bear the thought that she may never be published. Her father gives her a ‘tutorial’ type book for aspiring writers with vague and mostly ridiculous questions and statements to answer or elaborate on and Lydia treats this book with the contempt it mostly deserves in her answers. Cassie lost her father to cancer last year and is still very fragile because of it, attending counselling sessions but closing herself off. When her therapist tells her to pick a stranger and tell them about herself, she chooses her Pen-Pal even though he has made it clear he doesn’t want to write to her. The boys from Brookfield are funny too, Charlie talking about his brothers and Seb trying to get out of sitting exams (but not really for the reasons that you think) and the un-thawing of Matthew is really very well written. And then the betrayal is exquisitely done.

The high school rivalry has a real ring of truth to it. The town I grew up in and went to high school in had 2 public high schools, which were rivals with each other, and also, two Catholic high schools yrs 7-10 and then a Senior Catholic school for years 11-12. The two public schools disliked each other but could always find a common ground to team up against the Catholic schools! Despite this though, by the time we all got to year 12, inter-school dating and more frequent parties crashed by kids from other schools meant that our out-of-school social circles included people from all of the high schools and the rivalries were generally forgotten as we prepared to graduate. As the Pen-Pal project seeks to fix the rivalry between the two schools, it will make it so much worse before it can get better.

This book is also part of the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge, recommended for students in years 9&10 (ages 14-15). I think the format of entirely letters, memo’s, emails, post-it notes, notice board flyers etc would really appeal to students, plus they can relate to a lot of the high school drama going on. Definitely a good choice!


Book #108 of 2010

2 responses to “Finding Cassie Crazy – Jaclyn Moriarty

  1. Shannon says:

    I absolutely LOVED this book! I have the US edition, which is called The Year of Secret Assignments – I read it in about four hours and laughed all the way through! So wonderful! I have a few others of hers to read yet.

    Oh, and I do recommend I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes – which they re-released as a YA novel called The Spell Book of Listen Taylor. I think it works better as an adult novel *shrug*. It’s annoying when they do that and you think it’s a whole new book!!

  2. shelleyrae@ Book'd Out says:

    I bought a few of Moriaty’s books for my eldest daughter, she never read them but i did lol I grew up in Castle Hill so it’s nice to read something set in an area I’m familiar with.

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