I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Delacorte on March 13, 2012
Genres: Contemporary YA
Source: the publisher via NetGalley
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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.
Don’t you guys love reading books about creative people? I love reading books about young people who have these amazing gifts that I could never hope to possess. In WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard, our girl Bria has a PASSION for drawing. And you guys? Bria has this passion that she’s denying herself because, well, BAGGAGE, and so she decides to throw caution–and her own usual misgivings about adventure and pushing the envelope–to the wind and make tracks for Central America. Love, discovery, freedom, friendship, and lots of coming-of-age awesomeness ensue. YES, PLEASE AND THANK YOU. This is a gorgeous, heart-warming, swoony, vibrant book, guys. Also, VACATION to faraway places!
WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard wouldn’t be half as good as it is if it wasn’t for Bria. She’s almost impossible not to like, or at least impossible not to root for. She’s suffering from some major self-doubt and this overwhelming urge to break out of this predictable, safe pattern she’s in. Bria wants to be bad, guys, and it was really satisfying to watch her struggle with the way she was back home and fight against her instincts to follow the rules and be careful. The character growth in WANDERLOVE is AMAZING. Bria slowly but surely becomes more confident, more comfortable, more easygoing about life. She becomes more sure of herself and who she is and what she wants, and rediscovers her love for drawing. SO AWESOME.
Of course, Bria doesn’t traipse around Central America, learning about herself and savoring her independence alone. THANK GOD, because if she did, we would never meet Rowan, her well-traveled, backpacking, living-without-strings, mysterious hottie friend. He’s got his own demons, and I LOVED HIM, even though he has white-boy dreads. Like, long ones. But one of the reasons that Bria is so eager to leave her hometown and go exploring, and one of the reasons that she’s so conflicted about her drawing, is because of her art-snob, condescending, douchebag ex-boyfriend. The difference between him and Rowan could not have been more stark. And I loved Bria and Rowan’s slow, uncertain development into something more than friends. It was gorgeous and swoony and lovely.
One of the best things about WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard, though, is not just the characters and their attempts to become more than their pasts, but the places they travel together. Guatemala, Belize–it’s all so vibrant and atmospheric and the perfect backdrop for Bria and Rowan’s journey together. The towns and monuments and places Kirsten Hubbard describes really jumped out at me. I’m not sure that I would ever ACTUALLY go to the places that Bria and Rowan go to, except maybe for the island, because I like a few creature comforts when I’m on vacation, like air conditioning and indoor plumbing. But the setting here is wild and bright and varied, full of such different cultures than Bria is used to, and to be able to see her take it all in and slowly allow both the place and the people to peel away her self-doubt about her art and her life is special. It made complete sense to me that THIS was the place Bria would need to go figure herself out.
I loved this book guys. It was one of the most enjoyable contemps I’ve read so far this year. Bria is, I thought, a perfectly wrought high school senior. She’s realized that the things she thought she wanted might be changing, and she isn’t afraid to go off and figure out what she DOES want. Everything in WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard happens at this really juicy, slow pace. Bria slowly starts loving to draw again. Her relationship with Rowan grows bit by sweet bit. It’s all WONDERFUL, and I hope you all get a chance to read it.