Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.I ran across Carpe Diem around four years ago in the Feiwel & Friends catalog. They had the excellent good sense to reprint the wonderful President's Daughter series by Ellen Emerson White, and I wondered what other YA titles they had on the docket at the time. My eye was drawn to this cover right off the bat, and I still think it's just perfect for the book. I love the slightly faded parchment look of it. With the silhouette and the hair and the style it could be anything really. In this case, it's a contemporary novel about a girl who goes on the trip of a lifetime and who's priorities are rearranged a bit as a result. I never hear very much about the book around the blogosphere and I wonder if it just sort of flitted and floated its way by or if others picked it up for its pretty outsides and enjoyed the insides as much as I did. I haven't seen anything else from Autumn Cornwell after this debut, but I would certainly be interested in more from her.
Vassar Spore's parents just went ahead and named their only daughter after one of the most prestigious women's colleges in the country. Unsurprisingly, she grows up a goal-oriented perfectionist intent on winning a Pulitzer Prize and marrying an MIT grad. Yawn. In steps Vassar's bohemian grandma who demands she spend the summer with her backpacking across Southeast Asia. Blackmailed to within an inch of their lives, Vassar's parents give in and off she goes to a region of the world she never thought she'd see. And it's all bugs and dirt and complications from there on out. She encounters a myriad of people and pests from different walks of life and vastly different outlooks from her own. And the girl who thought she was so open-minded and so adaptable discovers she has just a few more things to learn about life before she heads off to college to save the world.
Okay. So I think we can all agree that this plot line could have easily slipped into the predictable too-serious-girl finds there's more to life than book learning . . . but somehow it just . . . doesn't. I kept waiting to succumb to that familiar jaded feeling and it never came. And even though I did predict one key surprise correctly, Cornwell absolutely won me over with her genuine love for her character and the region of the world she was exploring. You could tell the author had traveled herself (and loved it) as there's just that certain kind of wanderlust and experience with being immersed in something wholly other that's difficult to manufacture. It was here in spades and I was suffused with memories of living abroad growing up and studying abroad later in college. Precious memories, every one. This wonderful sense of adventure lent the story a freshness I wholly enjoyed. Vassar's voice is a strong one, one that changes and grows over time, which I always appreciate. Lastly, if none of this has induced you to read the book, all I have to say is you might want to meet the handsome young man Vassar encounters on her sojourn. Because Hanks the Malaysian Cowboy Bodyguard alone is enough reason to read the book. "Hanks plural, not singular." Man, I love that cowboy.
Retro Friday Roundup
Chachic's Book Nook reviews The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
A Girl, Books and Other Things reviews The Accidental Vampire by Lynsay Sands
Good Books and Good Wine reviews Esio Trot by Roald Dahl
A Jane of All Reads reviews Miss Suzy by Miriam Young
bookshelves of doom review
Fields of Gold review
Over my Head review
The YA YA YAs review