Thursday, February 28, 2013

“He say: May you and Hanks have long life together with many little Hanks!" I gasped. I'll drink to that," said Hanks with a grin and quickly downed his lao-lao.”

Carpe Diem - Autumn Cornwell
368 pages
Genre: YA, Travel, Realistic Fiction

Summary: Vassar Spore is an ambitious girl who has her entire life planned out to the most minute detail. Not only does she plan on attending the school from which she received her name, but she is also determined to win a Pulitzer Prize, among other things. All of her planning, however, couldn’t prepare her for her grandmother’s invitation to tour Asia. Even though this trip does not fit into her plans, Vassar ends up being forced to go anyway, as she discovers that her grandmother is blackmailing her parents. Will Vassar ever discover the secret?

Review: The fabulous cover is what initially drew me to this book, the synopsis piqued my interest even further, and I was really excited to read this. Traveling adventures, a smart protagonist, a zany grandmother: what could be better, right? Unfortunately, while I loved the premise of this book, the execution fell a bit flat for me.

My biggest problem centered around plausibility. While some things were quite believable, others had me shaking my head in bafflement. For example, I know that Grandma Gerd wanted Vassar to experience new things, but at her age, would she really let her travel by herself in an unknown country? I won’t go into detail about other events in the story because that would be spoilerific, but to have so many crazy things happen in one trip just doesn’t seem probable to me.

The big reveal at the end, the secret behind the blackmailing that occurred throughout the book, was one I predicted from the very beginning. I was really hoping it would be something completely out of left field, but alas, it was not.

I had a really hard time warming up to Vassar, which could be why I had such a ‘meh’ reaction to the book. Being goal-oriented and driven is something I completely understand, but something about her just didn’t seem all that realistic to me. She did do some growing over the course of Carpe Diem, though, and I liked her much more by the book’s end.

Grandma Gerd, however, was really awesome. I loved how wacky she was, and I liked how she was able to coax Vassar into trying new things. Hanks was also pretty great, and I really enjoyed what Cornwell did with his character. He was a wonderful friend to Vassar from very early on, and I liked watching their friendship grow throughout the course of the book.

I also love that this book took place in Asia. I’m fascinated by Asia and would love to travel there someday, so it was really cool to view it through the eyes of someone who was experiencing everything it had to offer for the first time.

While this book wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, if you enjoy travel books and adventure, you may enjoy Carpe Diem.

Rating: 3/5

Read-alikes: Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes - Maureen Johnson, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn and David Levithan