Monday, September 7, 2009

Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell

The sixteen-year-old main character of Carpe Diem, named Vassar Spore after the prestigious women's college, has big goals. As she says, "I've got my entire life planned out for the next ten years--including my Ph.D. and Pulitzer Prize." Uh, woah. Then, the grandmother she's never seen somehow blackmails her parents into shipping Vassar off to backpack through Southeast Asia--Malaysia, Cambodia, and Laos, to be exact--with said grandmother. Suddenly, it looks like the summer won't include AP and AAP classes anymore.

When she gets to Malaysia, the first country on the very, very (and to Vassar, uncomfortably) loose agenda, she discovers that her grandmother, or Grandma Gerd, is nothing like her parents. Grandma Gerd is an artist, collects "found art" (Vassar's word for it is trash) for her collages, wears a skirt made out of a rice bag, and believes firmly in LIMming, or living in the moment. This last habit is anything but what Vassar has been raised to do, but Grandma Gerd is determined to have her LIM all the way around Southeast Asia. No plans, and certainly not the ten suitcases Vassar brought with her. Over the course of her stay, Vassar encounters: lots of mosquitos, a Southeast Asian cowboy boyfriend, a new name, venomous caterpillars, ancient relics, an amputee, 100% humidity, and the secret her parents were blackmailed with (among other things, of course).

Carpe Diem was good, but not as good as I expected it to be. (The last part was probably more my own fault than the book's.) After the first couple of chapters, I was aghast at what Vassar's parents expected of her, and at the fact that she seemed to think nothing of it. Grandma Gerd was an absolute riot, and definitely my favorite part about the book. At first, she seems kind of crazy, but she levels out well. In the end, though there were things I didn't like, I would definitely recommend Carpe Diem.

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