Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard
Published: March 13th 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
It all begins with a stupid question:
Are you a Global Vagabond?
No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.
Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.
But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.
Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry to this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.
Wanderlove was one of the most refreshing books I've read in a very long time. It's against the grain, unique, one of a kind, and inspiring.
So. This is why I loved it.
The characters were real. Bria is a real girl with real problems and real memories. She was really hurt, and as a reader, I felt it, and even though (as she says in the book) other people out there in third world countries have big problems, her problems were big to her, and they were real to her. And because they were real to her, they were real to me. Rowan was a guy with a screwed up past, trying to stick to the straight and narrow, but it's hard when you're just prone to being a bad boy. His memories haunt him and give him so much depth that I wouldn't have him any other way.
The relationship between Bria and Rowan was a beautiful breath of fresh air. Yes they had their arguments, yes they had their miscommunications, but for the most part, they communicated with each other—or at least tried—they worked together and made sacrifices for each other, and they forgave each other. They apologized for the real stuff—sometimes the small stuff, but stuff that had actually hurt the other person, no matter how small. BUT! Hubbard managed to write this whole beautiful relationship WITHOUT making it a victim of Happyland Syndrome. Gold stars for her!
The plot was a total surprise the whole way through. Because of the concept of the story (backpacking wherever they felt so inclined without planning ahead too much), the plot had to reflect that free-flowing laidback unplanned feeling, the feeling that it was all happening randomly and the characters (and therefore the author) were making spontaneous decisions. And it did: I never knew what would happen next. But I always knew it would be excellent.
The writing was great! It was so descriptive that I feel like I've watched a movie or an advertisement for a vacation (but without the annoying sales pitch), or maybe looked at photographs of the area… and at times, I could feel the sand between my toes and the water lapping at my ankles, and the sun on my face. I went headlong into this story and got lost in it.
I loved the ending. It was one of those open endings where you know what happens, but you don't know how, and that's okay because you know it turned out wonderfully. There was enough of a conclusion that I felt like the story was complete when I got to it, but not so much that it threw me out of the story in a jolt. (Also: love the cover. It's perfect.)
Lastly: The message. I'm not going to spoil anything, or give it away, or take away your reason to read it. But, there's a wonderful (subtle un-preachy) message in this book about past memories, future hope, trust, and what it means to change as a person. Bria grew up. She kept her fun-side, but she grew up. Rowan grew up too (it took him a little longer, but he managed). And they're going to continue to grow together. I loved watching it happen, and I hope you get a chance to see it too.
Content/recommendation: No sex, maybe 1 bad word total? It was wonderful. Ages 14+
*This would make an excellent summer read! Add to your vacation lists!*