I secretly have a thing for books about travel—probably because I’ve never been outside the country and thus have to live vicariously. And this book brings it. Seriously. Vassar and her grandma are backpacking through Southeast Asia—a journey not for the faint of heart. And the author doesn’t sugarcoat anything (at least, I don’t think she does—after all, I have no experience in the matter). Through Vassar you get to see the awesome and beautiful things about the countries she visits, as well as the grimy and not-so-ideal aspects. You see the good, the bad, and the ugly, for sure.
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.
Vassar herself is generally likeable. She’s a little too Type A for my taste, but her learning to loosen up is a big part of the story, so I can’t fault her for it. And I respected that she had a fairly good attitude about the whole situation. I have to admit my attitude would probably be much worse than hers if I was the one dragged out of my life by a grandma I didn’t know on a trip I didn’t want to go on. I think the only thing I can’t forgive Vassar for is her superior attitude. She was so holier-than-thou about everything. So let’s just say I was really happy when she got knocked down a peg.
The romance in the book was really refreshing. Hanks is definitely NOT your typical YA boy. I mean, he’s a short Malaysian cowboy-wannabe. But man, did I love him. He gets Vassar out of her bubble and is just generally an awesome person.
The only real hang up I have with the book is the big secret about Vassar’s life that finally gets revealed. It weirded me out, and I couldn’t get past that. I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ll just say that I definitely wasn’t expecting it, and I admire Vassar for handling the information WAY better than I ever would’ve.
Overall, this was a fun and enjoyable travel book. If you like 13 Little Blue Envelopes, you’ll probably like this one, as it’s along similar lines. And now, I really can’t decide if this book makes me want to go to Southeast Asia or stay as far away from it as possible…
Rating: 3.5 / 5