Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell

Genre: teen adventure
Age Group: Young Adult
Book #: one
Pages: 368
Synopsis: Like her parents, 16-year-old Vassar is a Planner with a capital P! She leaves nothing to chance (guess where she plans to go to college?). Never, that is, until the doorbell rings one night, and before you can say unexpected, Vassar finds herself backpacking through the jungles of Southeast Asia with Gertrude, her madcap artist grandmother. How could her parents have permitted this? Well, it has something to do with what Vassar thinks of as The Big Secret. Will she solve the mystery before she's completely undone by fallout from Grandma's relentless acts of spontaneity?


This is one of those books that don't get well known, even though they should. I was introduced to Carpe Diem last summer (which is the summer of 2010) by a friend of mine who had picked it up at the library. She had adored the book and I read it while on vacation, and it was a laugh-out-loud read. Cornwell did an amazing job of making a teenage girl who was raised to plan, and then suddenly switch her into a girl who couldn't. The change challenged Vassar and I thought Cornwell was wonderful at the switch in emotions.

The best part of this book was the humor. Vassar's friends were cute, although not dwelt upon. They show up in the beginning, before Vassar goes with her grandmother on their vacation, and during the vacation, when Vassar answers their emails. Vassar herself was hilarious in what she does when she's forced to make the epic change from planning everything to having to wing it all the time. Vassar's grandmother was so funny when Vassar mentioned planning and sanitation. Hanks, Vassar's crush throughout most of the book, was Vassar's knight in shining armor, saving her from every weird thing she got herself into. I couldn't stop laughing!

Overall, I loved Carpe Diem. Cornwell's plot was so unique and creative, it couldn't compare to many other teen books. Vassar was funny and different and Cornwell's perception of the teenage girl was great. The side characters weren't dwelt upon, but they were there, adding twists to the book. The mystery of the Big Secret was shocking, and it left me laughing in a strange sort of way. Although the mystery is there, Cornwell writes so much happening around it that that's not the central part of the book. Amazing. Marvelous. Hilarious!

The Cover: I think this depicts the book well. I thought that it doesn't really speak Vassar until the end of the book, when she really learns to LIM. I love the neutral colors and how they represent Vassar's time in southern Asia. I also think the natury feel of the cover fits the mood perfectly.

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