"I've got my entire entire life planned out for the next ten years--including my PhD and Pulitzer Prize," claims sixteen-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 both 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 is faced with thinmgs she isn't prepared for--adventure, danger, a Malaysian cowboy-slash-bodyguard her own age--and learning to "live in the moment" uncovers a family secret that turns her world upside down.
Vassar Spore can plan on one thing: She'll never be the same again.
Character Development: 5/10
Overall Enjoyment: 6/10
Total Score: 47/70
Cussing: Yes, some.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: A few teen drinking scenes, some drug use, though not by main characters, and child smoking.
Sexual Content: Nothing real, but some narration/discussion/speculation
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some child abuse, kind of.
The first thing I need to say about this book--I hated Vassar. She was an annoying snobby idiot. And while I think this was intentional, I did not like it. I can generally deal with not-so-perfect protagonists, but this girl was terrible. Even at the end, when I admit she did become more human, I still disliked her. More than that, though, was my overall disgust at every single one of the characters. I didn't like Hanks, Grandma Gerd, Bounmy, any of Vassar's friends back home, and especially her ridiculous parents. Shudder. I understand the author's intention to create a certain kind of atmosphere, but this atmosphere was claustrophobic and slimy and gag-inducing to me. I really did not like reading about them.
However, I think this was my main problem with the book. I loved the setting, lush Southeast Asia, even if Vassar fell short of my expectations most of the time. The writing was brutally honest and seemed to thrive on gory details, things I wasn't particularly excited about reading. While it didn't draw me in very quickly, I was able to read it and there were some fun moments.
Overall, it was a pretty quick read that had a blessedly interesting twist to it. It made me want to pack up and head down to Southeast Asia for a summer. However, if you're like me, and you don't happen to like germaphobic bratty brainiacs who lack social skills and worldly knowledge, avoid this book.