Publication: 08.21.2007 by Feiwel & Friends
“I've got my entire life planned out for the next ten years — including my PhD and Pulitzer Prize,” claims 16-year-old overachiever Vassar Spore, daughter of overachiever parents, who in true overachiever fashion named her after an elite women’s college. Vassar expects her sophomore summer to include AP and AAP (Advanced Advanced Placement) classes. Surprise! Enter a world-traveling relative who sends her plans into a tailspin when she blackmails Vassar’s parents into forcing their only child to backpack with her through Southeast Asia.
On a journey from Malaysia to Cambodia to the remote jungles of Laos, Vassar sweats, falls in love, hones her outdoor survival skills — and uncovers a family secret that turns her whole world upside-down.
Vassar Spore can plan on one thing: she’ll never be the same again.
Carpe Diem was one of those spontaneous choices from the library because it was on audio. I hadn’t heard of it before, but when I checked out the reviews, I saw that it had a good rating and from the summary it sounded quite interesting. While Vassar is a little difficult to like at first, she definitely does grow up, as she gets herself in and out of crazy situations that had me rushing through the book to find out what she got into next.
Vassar has her life planned out every step of the way, following her parents’ wishes, who only want her to focus on her academics. Of course, her plan is to spend her summer taking more classes so she can get that 5.3 GPA that she needs to be valedictorian. What she doesn't have planned is for her Grandmother Gerd (who she's never met) to buy her a plane ticket and expenses paid trip through Southeast Asia (which she doesn't want to go to.) Shocked when her parents accepted (or are blackmailed to accept, since she overhears their phone conversation) Vassar is pretty much forced to take the trip.
Vassar is totally a Type A personality that I didn't like at all at first, and she complained so much! Of course if I had been her age and made to do something I thought ruined my plans completely, I would've complained a lot too. Vassar definitely did grow on me, even though her personality remained pretty much the same. She goes through a heck of a lot but manages to come out with a positive outlook. She also does a lot of growing up herself, even though she was already mature, and eventually learns to LIM (live in the moment!)
Grandma Gerd is something else, with her trash collection (for her art) and her attempts at trying to make Vassar loosen up as much as possible. She’s wild, and fun, but pretty crazy too. Hanks is also something else. I mean a Malaysian wanna-be cowboy? He's sweet but so cocky sometimes I wanted to smack him! Vassar’s parents and friends, while not exactly main characters, still stay connected to the story through various emails to Vassar throughout her trip.
Carpe Diem is definitely a fun adventure. Vassar struggles to adjust to a foreign country with a strange person and tries to figure out how she managed to blackmail her parents, and then she eventually learns to live a little. She manages to get herself in trouble, not only in wacky situations but also into dangerous scenarios that add some suspense to the story as it develops. While the ending (as well as “the big secret”) were a bit obvious to me several pages before the ending, I still enjoyed reading how everything would be revealed and concluded. I thought Carpe Diem was humorous, entertaining, and overall, and great read that I am sure others who enjoy teen books about travel will enjoy as well.