Moriarty, Jaclyn. The Year of Secret Assignments. New York: Scholastic, 2004.
This was a great book. It is about three friends, Lydia, Emily, and Cassie, who attend a nice school. They are hooked up with three students at a neighboring school in a required pen pal project. This doesn't go over well because the girls think that all the Brookfield High kids are bad and criminals, etc. The boys aren't overjoyed to be writing to girls from Ashbury, who they think are snobby and rich. It turns out they all hit it off in their letters and all decide they want to meet up after awhile. The only roadbump is that Cassie's pen pal, who was initially rude to her but finally warmed up, keeps standing her up, and then he is purposely cruel to her. Then the other 2 girls discover through their pen pals, that there isn't even a Matthew Dunlop that goes to Brookfield. This makes the two girls and their pen pals join together to find out who is teasing and hurting their friend.
Toward the end, there is a lot of vandalism in each school, believed to be in retaliation between the schools because of their rivalries. Lydia, Cassie, and Em are accused of being the perpetrators of the vandalism at Brookfield, even though they claim they are innocent. We aren't really sure as readers if they are innocent because they are pranksters, and it is believable that they would do such a thing. They have to prove they are innocent before they get expelled.
The entire novel is told in the form of letters to each other, journal entries, notes, and various other forms of communication. I thought it would hard keeping up with who was who, since the point of view changes often. There were a few times when I had to think to myself "Is Cassie the one with the dead father or the one who is high strung?" but I figured it out quickly enough since the writing style of all 6 characters is quite distinctive. My favorite is Em who uses big words, but uses them all wrong. It is amusing, but will be lost on readers that dont' know what the words mean in the first place.
This is supposed to be a companion novel to Feeling Sorry for Celia, which I recall enjoying a few years ago. I went on Amazon to see the reviews, and the characters are all different. I think the only similarity that makes it a "companion novel" is that the novel also centers around the same pen pal project, only with different characters.
I highly recommend this witty novel.