Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem


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In this delightful romantic adventure, a 16-year-old overachiever learns how to seize the day. 
“I’ve got my entire life planned out for the next ten years — including my PhD and Pulitzer Prize,” claims 16-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 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 sweats, falls in love, hones her outdoor survival skills — and uncovers a family secret that turns her whole world upside-down.     
Vassar Spore can plan on one thing: she’ll never be the same again.
Squat toilets, profuse sweating, bamboo huts, jumbo centipedes—these are just some of the delights Autumn Cornwell has encountered in her global travels. Not to mention the can’t-believe-it’s-true Laotian jungle adventure which inspired Carpe Diem.
    A travel junkie, Autumn has explored twenty-two countries and counting. She’s spent the last couple summers working with refugees and orphans in Burma, Thailand, and Laos. Southeast Asia remains close to her heart since her days as a missionary kid in New Papua—where she ate her weight in guavas and mingled with reformed headhunters and cannibals. Which was nothing compared to navigating the intrepid jungles of the TV and Film Industry, where she spent most of her career.
    Autumn lives in Los Feliz, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, with her husband JC, and their son Dexter. This is her first novel.

“As the setting shifts, so does the story’s tone, from Vassar’s stilted home life and stuffy parents to a vividly described environment and array of colorful characters . . . Suspenseful and wonderfully detailed, the well-crafted story maintains its page-turning pace while adding small doses of cultural insight and humor.” —School Library Journal, Starred Review

“This is self-confessed travel junkie Autumn Cornwell’s first novel—and she’s hit one out of the park . . . Cornwell genially skewers both Ivy League-obsessed nerds and the Lonely Planet crowd.” —The Washington Post“The locale, Vassar’s gaffes, and quirky characters—especially Grandma Gerd and Hank—are what set this book apart.” —VOYA“A witty coming-of-age adventure.” —Kirkus Reviews“Take a traveler as reluctant as Anne Tyler’’ accidental tourist and add the number of misadventures found in The Out-of-Towners, and you have the recipe for Cornwell’ hilarious, adventure-packed first novel.” —Publishers Weekly“Cornwell brings the setting to life so vividly that you can practically feel the sweat running down your body as you read parts of the book.” —The YA YA YAs / blog

“. . . a classic coming-of-age story and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.” —Bookslut

Carpe Diem is a gem. I loved the plot, enjoyed the characters (although Grandma Gerd really ‘ticked’ me off sometimes) and appreciated that the author could draw me in so completely to Vassar’s world. This book is so much fun; I recommend you give it as a gift to someone else who is searching for good, fun young adult books.” —Armchair Interviews

“. . . anyone who has lost their luggage; has felt their well planned [day, trip, life] slip through their fingers; or has made a list of goals, or even things to do; will laugh out loud and love this book.” —Keri Holmes at The Kaleidoscope
July 27th: I’m freezing. My head itches. I can’t remember the last time I had a shower or anything to eat besides sticky rice. This is not how I planned to spend my summer–or end my life. If only we hadn’t answered the door that rainy night in May . . .
Carpe DiemPART ONEStatesideCHAPTER ONEYou Can Plan Your LifeTHE PACKAGE CAME DURING THE HOUR OF REFLECTION, that sacred time after dinner when we peruse goals accomplished during the day and set goals for the day to come. (“If it worked for Benjamin Franklin, it can work for us,” as Mom would say.)

We were sitting in our living room, my favorite room in the house, with its stone fireplace and floor-to-ceiling books–all in Dewey decimal system order. And no TV–because that’s “living vicariously through other people.” Dad was editing the proofs of his latest book, How to Increase Your Personal Productivity in 2,000 Easy Steps; Mom was writing in her Journal of Excellence; and I was tackling my Life Goals. This is what I had so far:

VASSAR SPORE’S LIFE GOALS1. Graduate valedictorian from the Seattle Academy of Academic Excellence (with a minimum of 5.3 GPA).

2. Graduate with honors from Vassar (and receive an honorary certificate because of the whole same name thing) then get PhD in (TBD) from an Ivy League school (TBD).

3. Marry a 6’5″ blond surgeon (or judge) for love by age 25; have three children by age 35 (two girls, one boy).

4. Publish the definitive book on (TBD) by age 37.

5. Receive Pulitzer prize.

The particular goal consuming me that evening was #2. Graduate school was only six years away, so I couldn’t afford to waste a single minute.