In the aftermath of her mother's death, Cat recklessly defers her admission to Stanford and joins Students Without Boundaries. She is sent to the South American city of Calante, torn apart by a recent civil war. There she meets Margo, a sophisticated urbanite out to pad her resume for medical school, and Taylor, heir to a hotel fortune and hoping to redeem himself after a failed freshman year at college. She also meets Rafael, a local boy battling his own grief and demons, desperate to be the savior he thinks his country needs. As her relationship with Rafael deepens, Cat is no longer sure what she wants or what is right and wrong.
This book is told through alternating chapters - before Cat's mother's death and after. I really enjoyed the chapters before her mother died, learning about their relationship and why it was so difficult for Cat to simply move on after her death. The chapters after, when Cat moves to a fictionalized war-torn, third world country in South America were more difficult for me. Cat meets a cast of "characters" there, and I say "characters" because that's what they felt like to me instead of real people. It was almost as if the author was simply checking boxes - white Christian, overachieving Asian, rich gay guy... you get the idea. Of course, each of them has signed on to the Students Without Borders program for their own reasons, my problem was none of them seemed like they really wanted to be there. And none of them for the right reason, which was to actually HELP the country's residents.
And then, of course, there's Cat's love interest Rafael. My issue with their relationship is that neither learns anything from the other. Cat blindly goes along with his militant agenda instead of growing as a person. Their relationship felt authentic but didn't actually move Cat's story arc along.
In all, this book was enjoyable, I just wish the author had done MORE with each of the characters (and especially Cat) to have them learn something valuable by the end.