Series Review: Ashbury/Brookfield by Jaclyn Moriarty

Series Review: Ashbury/Brookfield by Jaclyn MoriartyFeeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
Series: Ashbury/Brookfield #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 8, 2001
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Romance
Pages: 276
Source: Library
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Life is pretty complicated for Elizabeth Clarry. Her best friend Celia keeps disappearing, her absent father suddenly reappears, and her communication with her mother consists entirely of wacky notes left on the fridge. On top of everything else, because her English teacher wants to rekindle the "Joy of the Envelope," a Complete and Utter Stranger knows more about Elizabeth than anyone else.

But Elizabeth is on the verge of some major changes. She may lose her best friend, find a wonderful new friend, kiss the sexiest guy alive, and run in a marathon.
So much can happen in the time it takes to write a letter...

A #1 bestseller in Australia, this fabulous debut is a funny, touching, revealing story written entirely in the form of letters, messages, postcards—and bizarre missives from imaginary organizations like The Cold Hard Truth Association.

Feeling Sorry for Celia captures, with rare acuity, female friendship and the bonding and parting that occurs as we grow. Jaclyn Moriarty's hilariously candid novel shows that the roller coaster ride of being a teenager is every bit as fun as we remember—and every bit as harrowing.

For a few years now, Gillian has encouraged me to read The Year of Secret Assignments, and, being me, I had to start with Feeling Sorry for Celia. Though very much not my typical read and one I wouldn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did, Feeling Sorry for Celia is silly and fun in just the right tongue-in-cheek way.

Feeling Sorry for Celia is epistolary, consisting primarily of letters from Elizabeth to her school-mandated pen pal (the schools Ashbury and Brookfield set up a pen pal program between English classes) Christina. In addition to those, there are letters from Elizabeth’s mom, Celia, and sarcastic notes from Elizabeth’s own anxiety. The latter were my absolute favorite part; they’re hilarious and relatable.

The plot consists primarily of Elizabeth’s relationship with her best friend Celia. At the beginning of the book, Celia has gone missing, a fairly regular occurrence. Celia’s a classic MPDG, and it’s interesting to get a point of view that isn’t that of a love interest. Celia doesn’t make for a good friend, and Elizabeth realizes this over the course of the book, becoming much closer to Christina. There’s a bit of romance in the background, but not a lot.

Plot-wise, I’d really have expected not to enjoy this one as much as I did. There’s not a whole lot actually going on. You get loaded up with details about both Elizabeth and Christina’s daily lives, and neither one of them is a particularly gifted or clever writer. There are so many exclamation points. And yet, it all just kind of works in this context. I read the last half in one sitting.

This one’s definitely worth a go for readers who enjoy unique storytelling styles or quirky off-beat humor.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Series Review: Ashbury/Brookfield by Jaclyn MoriartyThe Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty
Series: Ashbury/Brookfield #2
Published by Point on April 1, 2005
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Humor
Pages: 340
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Three Aussie girls become pen pals with three guys at another school in this delightful, high-spirited read by Feeling Sorry for Celia author Jaclyn Moriarty.

Told entirely through letters, diary entries, emails, and other writing, Moriarty's novel introduces us to Emily, Lydia, and Cassie -- all students at Ashbury High -- who begin writing to their Brookfield High counterparts through the schools' organized pen pal project. Readers learn quickly that each girl has her own writing style and that at two of the Brookfield boys (Seb and Charlie) seem to be smitten with Lydia and Emily. The only trouble is Cassie's pen pal, Matthew, a shady character who first sends her short, threatening letters and then becomes strangely sweet toward her. Nobody can figure out why Cassie keeps writing to him, but after she has a crushing meet-up with Matthew, Cassie discovers -- with the help of her friends and the Brookfield guys -- that he hasn't been honest about his identity. All could be ended there, but when Charlie helps take revenge and Brookfield High gets mysteriously vandalized, the group comes together to deliver justice and save the endangered pen pal project.

Fresh and impressive, Moriarty's novel is lighthearted fare that will keep readers glued to the end. In particular, her knack for capturing different writing styles shines the spotlight on her own talent, giving audiences clear inspiration to try their own diary or journal writing. Clearly centered on the girls while incorporating romance and fun guy personalities -- Rachel Cohn and Meg Cabot fans will eat this up.

As expected, the specifically recommended book is even better. The Year of Secret Assignments is completely kooky, ridiculous, hilarious, and has cute ship times. What more could I want?

Moriarty uses the same basic concept she leveraged in Feeling Sorry for Celia, but she diversifies. As opposed to just being the letters of one pair, three best friends at Ashbury write to three boys at Brookfield. There are also diary entries, notes from a father, and Lydia’s snarky commentary in a writing journal. Having more people writing the letters and more content in general means that there’s less of the mundane stuff from Celia, and the plot moves at a faster clip.

There’s also just more exciting stuff happening to the actual characters in The Year of Secret Assignments. Where Elizabeth in Feeling Sorry for Celia was a pretty passive player observing the weird shit her former bestie was doing, Emily, Lydia, and Cassie are all active and bursting with personality. Also, obviously, me being me, I love that the shippy potential of boy-girl pen pals.

The Year of Secret Assignments focuses on the rivalry between the two schools. Ashbury’s a school of rich kids, and Brookfield’s got more of an inner-city bad kid vibe. It breaks out into a prank war, culminating in a trial for those accused of perpetrating the pranks. It’s completely unrealistic at basically all points, but who cares when it’s such madcap fun. View Spoiler » Absolutely the best part is the very ending when you realize exactly what went on. These girls are excellent.

The three girls (and the boys too) have quite distinct voices, which takes major skill so serious props to Moriarty. My favorite by far is Lydia, who’s snarky and grumpy and just the best. And my favorite ship is her and Seb. He meets her off-the-wall snideness in turn with good humor, and they make a really excellent team. Emily and Charlie are not as clever as the other two, but the “teaching Charlie how to date” flirting is completely precious. Cass and Matthew, well, you’ll see.

The Year of Secret Assignments is ludicrously fun. For ships and laughter, stop by Ashbury and Brookfield. I was excited to carry on with the series from here but DNFed book three, which bored me. But these two are totally worth it!

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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