16 year old Vassar Spore takes it for granted that her life will continue on smoothly in its pleasant path of over achieving. She plans to finish high school with a 5.3 gpa (the new 4.0), head off to Vassar (her name is no coincidence) and keep heading on up until she gets a Pulitzer prize, backed all the way by her overachieving (but happily married and supportive) parents.
Then her parents are blackmailed (mysteriously!) by her grandmother, who is off in south east Asia living a wild artistic life, and Vassar finds herself forced onto a plane to join her. She packs (10 matching bags), she plans (think Scaredy Squirrel here), she tries to stay in control, but Grandma Gerd, squat toilets, humongous centipedes, and a quite cute Malaysian cowboy wannabe called Hanks conspire against her. Until one night, trapped in an opium den in a Laotian village beyond any beaten trail, she ... basically, she seizes the day.
This is a very fun romp, verging on farcical, but not so much so as to obscure the nicely written character development and great travel writing!
And nobody dies.
Here's Autumn Cornwell's website. And here's a longer review, written by a Cybil's team-mate, back in August when there was more time...
PS. Scaredy Squirrel, by Melanie Watt, is also a great book.