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Friday, February 10, 2012

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Release Date: March 13, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-Galley
Source: Publisher
Pages: 352
Buy: Amazon / Fountain Bookstore
Description: Goodreads
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.
I’m in love with Wanderlove.

There are oodles of reasons to immerse yourself in Kirsten Hubbard’s sophomore novel.  First and foremost, it is brilliant in its simplicity: the tale of a middle class 18-year-old girl who takes a journey after graduating from high school to separate herself from her past and her debilitating break-up.  Nothing about that feels original, but somehow Wanderlove still is.  A substantial piece of that allure is Bria Sandoval.  

Bria is so wise and self-aware while still managing to realistically be 18.  She knows that she’s bitten off more than she can chew with her trip to Guatemala, and she really knows that she doesn’t want to go back to LA and back to friends who don’t understand what she’s going through or parents who can’t understand why she needed to leave.  Yet, she is also very innocent and green, naïve and new.  Essentially, she’s human and extremely relatable on many levels.  Because of this, I became attached to Bria.  Her occasional outbursts, her willingness to go along with a complete stranger like Starling, her musings about art school, her flashbacks to “happier” times with ex-boyfriend Toby—everything about her rings true.  When she finally lets herself feel the pain she’s been fighting, my heart breaks right along with hers.  You don’t have to be any artist to understand her quest to rediscover her joy.

The artwork throughout the book is another nice detail.  Bria’s drawings (done by the author herself!) flit through the pages, giving the reader further insight into Bria’s world.  The technique could have easily distracted from the plot, but it is used just enough to enhance rather than take away from the moment, allowing the reader to join into the adventure.  And the scenery!  I’ve never been an “off the beaten track” kind of girl, but that’s yet another reason to join Bria & Rowan.  Hubbard gives excellent, rich descriptions of gorgeous locations through Guatemala and Belize, taking you along for the ride.  The conversations and situations are spot-on, especially Rowan and Bria’s late night outpourings of their souls.  And really, are there any other kinds of outpourings of souls besides the late night kind?  

Speaking of Rowan… he’s quite the fella.  He’s well-read, well-traveled, well-spoken; he is the best mix of sensitive intellectual and reformed bad boy. The slow build of their burgeoning relationship is particularly fantastic because, again, it’s believable.  Too many books have that immediate “I just met you and I love you oh-so-much” kind of mentality that, frankly, doesn’t impress me.  This relationship does.  However, one of my only small complaints is that I wish Rowan’s entire secretive back story is completely revealed rather than mentioned.  I get why it isn’t revealed in the big picture sense, but I feel it would have added another important layer to him.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my journey.  Refreshingly realistic characters, inspiring locales, and gorgeous writing.  Consider me afflicted with Wanderlove.

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