Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
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 into 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 is a gorgeous, heart-warming YA novel that will make you laugh, cry, and laugh some more. Honestly, it takes a lot for a contemporary to touch me as much as WANDERLOVE did. I felt like I truly connected with Bria and I could understand where she was coming from. She’s not at all predictable, and like everyone, she has to grow and learn from her experiences. WANDERLOVE is definitely now one of my favorite YA contemporaries!
I don’t know how Bria did it all. I’ve been to Costa Rica and Guatemala before, but I never experienced it like Bria did. The hostels, backpacking, and icky food made me cringe, but it did give me a new appreciation for people who do backpack through other countries. There’s one speech that Rowan makes in the novel that really touched me and gave me a new perspective on people who live in these countries. One thing that really drew me to Bria was her struggle to find who she was as a person. She previously let her ex define her, but now that he’s gone, she doesn’t know what to do.
Beyond Bria, there’s Rowan. Rowan is one of those love interests who has a shady background, but who’s trying to move past it all and look toward the future. He’s got a soft and funny side to him that gives him even more dimension and is sure to get girls falling for him. But what I really appreciate about Rowan is what he did for Bria–he helps her come out of her shell and gives her these experiences that are sure to last her for a lifetime.
Oh, and did I mention the drawings in WANDERLOVE??? They add to Bria’s artistic side and give you more insight into Bria’s inner self. I don’t want to give away what I noticed about them in relation to each of the four parts of the novel, but I was excited when I realized what Hubbard was doing with them!
Hubbard has crafted one of those amazing novels that will stick with you long after the final page. I ripped through WANDERLOVE within a day and I only wish that I had drawn it out longer.