Vassar Spore is a dream child for many parents, including her own. She is incredibly ambitious, wanting nothing more than to be valedictorian, be accepted to Vassar (for obvious name-related reasons), and eventually win the Pulitzer for something extremely important. She has her summer all planned out, filled with AP classes and other academia when her crazy, bohemian grandmother blackmails her parents into sending Vassar on a backpacking trip across Southeast Asia. Vassar doesn't want to go. Vassar's parents don't want her to go. Unfortunately, Grandma Gert has something on Vassar's parents and the teenager ends up on a plane, filled mainly with her luggage alone, flying to Asia for an incredibly eventful summer. She hopes, at least, she will be able to find out what was such good blackmail material that her parents forgot her dreams of being valedictorian and sent her across the world.
Throughout the summer, Vassar experiences many first for her short life. She becomes interested in a boy, who she of course hates at first. She learns that less luggage means more freedom, just like less rationalizations mean more fun. She has a myriad of crises, getting close to being arrested more than once and often finding herself being forced to rely only on herself to get out of scrapes. Despite her initial dislike, she also grows closer to her grandmother and learns how to be a bit more free.
This was a hilarious book, with a main character that reminded me a lot of myself when I was in high school. Now, I wasn't striving to win a Pulitzer, nor get into an Ivy League school, but I was over-doing it on the "all work, no play" mantra. It was great to see Vassar loosen up as the summer progressed and though the "big secret" that allowed Grandma to blackmail her parents becomes a little predictable, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book.