Carpe Diem, by Autumn Cornwell
Being a high school girl is about finding your way from your childhood self to your adult self. At close view, that can look like making the right friends, snagging the “right” boyfriend, keeping ahead of the pack, and keeping a grasp of your appearance and dignity, while striving all the time to end up on top. If you’re lucky, as Vassar Spore is in this novel by Autumn Cornwell, you will get a chance to get sidetracked. Off the beaten track and at the mercy of fate, you may get a chance to find out who you really are and to realize that you like what you find.
Autumn Cornwell has written a story about an American high school girl who is just that close to having it all. When this fully Americanized teenager suddenly and unwillingly finds herself travelling through Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia, we expect her horror at germs, unfamiliar food, lack of shower facilities, and large bugs. We even expect that she will change and find wisdom in her new surroundings because it seems the plot is directed towards this. But since the author was an avid traveller in her own youth, her descriptions of these countries are weighted with a profound fondness. What could have been a trite plot ends up being convincing and lovely.
Narrated in the voice of sixteen-year-old Vassar Spore, Carpe Diem (seize the day) reads like a teenager talking to other teenagers. I found it quite funny and I found the two main teenage characters very real and in the end, very appealing. Not a difficult read at all, there are still quite a few good vocabulary words thrown in. And, it is an entirely appropriate novel for the youngest of teenagers.