I am not the most-informed of bloggers. (cough-understatement-cough) With one foot in the needlework camp, one in the kidlit camp, a hand in the miscellaneous craft camp, the other on the line between the Alaska home-and-garden and outdoor adventure camps, it’s no wonder things seem Twisted around here. Spinning as I do in my irregular orbits around these different industries, I am often out of the loop. If there was or is much ado about Autumn Cornwell’s debut novel, I missed it. And if there wasn’t or isn’t much ado about this little gem, why the heck not?!
You know how much I liked The Goose Girl, so this book had a tough act to follow. It’s standing right up there, straight and tall, mingling animatedly, perfectly comfortable in such company.
Furthermore, while I’m happy with reader Lynde Houck’s portrayal of MC, Vassar Spore, I strongly dislike her version of Grandma Gerd. She makes Gerd sound like a chronically sarcastic, condescending know-it-all, which is not how she’d sound were I reading her dialogue. The story, however, is strong enough to overcome even that serious obstacle.
Finally, you know how I often complain about over-the-top characters and events? Well, Carpe Diem is full of them, and I love them! It’s not fantasy, where over-the-top is allowable, but the exaggerated characters are deliberate and, as such, are funny. No doubt I’m partial to the uber-organized, uber-ambitious, uber-controlling characters because I am in many ways like them, just a bit less so. I have laughed out loud three times thus far; I’m about halfway through the book.
Sixteen-year-old Vassar Spore, with the help of her parents–an efficiency expert (Dad) and life coach (Mom)–has her life mapped out by years, months, weeks, days, hours, and minutes. Vassar’s 5.3 GPA (the new 4.0) is bound to launch a very successful college life and career.
Enter laid-back hippy-artist Grandma Gerd, a trip-to-Southeast-Asia birthday gift for Vassar, and some secret which Grandma uses to blackmail Vassar’s parents into letting the trip take place.
While the characters may be exaggerated, the travel details are not; they’re just hand-picked from the long list of hilarious international travel debacles. I haven’t read a lot of contemporary foreign-travel MG or YA lit. I’m not sure it exists, but it should. I wouldn’t recommend the book necessarily as a study in foreign culture, but the culture details are a great and–dare I say it?–unique backdrop to an uber-fun story.