Undiscovered Country

348p. Second Story. Apr. 2017. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781772600315.
Gr 9 Up—After losing her mother to cancer, Cat chooses to take a gap year after graduation before starting college at Stanford. She joins the Students Without Borders, which is based in the fictional South American city of Calante. Cat arrives in the aftermath of a civil war and meets fellow volunteers, who have their own reasons for joining the program. This story alternates between the past and the present. The past chapters build up the significance of the volunteer program and give insight into Cat's frame of mind as she tries to cope with her mother's illness and the emotions that brought her to the breaking point. The present chapters show the denial and depression that she tries to keep hidden but that slowly rise to the surface. The narrative is at times predictable, with superfluous descriptive dialogue. The protagonist and some secondary characters feel slightly underdeveloped and one-dimensional. Readers will have a difficult time getting fully invested in the novel.
VERDICT For fans of Susane Colasanti and Sarah Dessen.

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