By: Kirsten Hubbard
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Genre/Age: YA Contemporary
Source: ARC from NetGalley and Random House Children’s Books
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.
Okay, here’s where I feel like an idiot, because even though I’d seen everyone raving about this book, I had Wanderlove in my possession for SIX MONTHS before I read it. Six. Months. And now that I’ve read it, I can see that this is totally unforgiveable, because you guys, this book is AMAZING. Amaaaaaaaazing.
Wanderlove is escapist fiction in the absolute best sense of the word. Kirsten Hubbard transports the reader so completely into backpacker Central America, it’s incredible. I’ve been lucky enough to both live and travel in the Caribbean and Central America at various times in my life, and everything is portrayed perfectly. The mentality and atmosphere of the Caribbean, the heat and discomfort of traveling by bus, the children playing soccer, the food, the gorgeous beaches, the little critters in the hostel, the cold outdoor showers… I got so nostalgic while reading, I looked up plane tickets almost immediately after I finished (once I was done grinning like a fool, that is). Kirsten Hubbard is an avid backpacker herself, and it definitely comes across in her realistic and affectionate portrayal of Guatemala and Belize.
Bria is such a unique and fun character in the world of YA contemps and I absolutely loved her voice. Wanderlove is both a physical journey through Central America as well as an emotional one, and I love how Bria developed as a character throughout the story. Both she and Rowan have a lot they need to work through, and watching them do this as they traverse mountains and beaches and villages is a special joy.
And speaking of Rowan, I want to apologize in advance for this next paragraph, but I just need to take a minute to be a total girl. Holy. Crap. This boy is so damn attractive. Quickened pulse? Check. I don’t know what it is exactly, but something about him just works for me. He has that dangerous edge to him because of his shady past, but he’s working hard to move past that which is so endearing to me. He’s also incredibly smart and well-traveled, reads all the time, and he’s a dive instructor. This is like my perfect guy, people. I’m still fanning myself. Kirsten, if you come across a boy like Rowan in your future travels, feel free to send him my way. ;)
And the romance! This is slow burn romance at its best. Totally swoonworthy. This is the kind of love story where you can feel their connection from the start, and even though you’re kind of dying for them to just make out already, you don’t actually want it to happen because you know that the slow-building tension and the little moments along the way (late night conversations while sharing a hammock are my favorite) are just going to make it so much better when it finally does happen. And hoo boy, Kirsten makes it happen. I’m still swooning.
If you can’t tell already, I am freaking IN LOVE with this book. I decided to start reading it around 1 am one night before I went to sleep (yeah, I’m a night owl), and I seriously didn’t sleep all night because I just couldn’t put it down. Eight in the morning rolled around and I could be found lying there clutching the book to my chest and grinning and sighing with happiness. I was pretty nonfunctional the next day, I can tell you that. But it was so worth it.
Whether or not you’re interested in traveling yourself, I guarantee you will enjoy Bria’s journey, bugs and all. And Wanderlove has gorgeous illustrations that are not only completely relevant to the story, but are drawn by the author herself! So. Cool. This book has a permanent place on my favorites shelf and I seriously can’t recommend it enough. Thank you so much, Kirsten Hubbard, for such a fantastic and heartwarming story!
And just as a final comment (I’m stopping soon, I promise! :P), Wanderlove happens to come out on my birthday, and I am so happy to be sharing March 13th with this beautiful beautiful book. And in the tradition of hobbits (because hobbits are awesome!), I want to give YOU a gift on my birthday! Well, one of you. I’d love to actually buy everyone a copy, but alas, my pockets are not that deep.
Giveaway details can be found here. And in honor of the nature of the book the giveaway is international! Go forth and enter! In the meantime, I think I’m going to reread Wanderlove. :)