Saturday, 7 April 2012

Book Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

First published: 13th March 2012
By: Delacorte Press

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.

My review:

In every glowing review of Wanderlove, the reviewer seems to have felt a deep emotional connection to the book. For the first few chapters, though, I thought this wasn't happening for me. Sure, I was enjoying the story of Bria's trip to Central America and mildly curious about the backstory with her controlling ex-boyfriend, but I wasn't super hooked. I didn't realise then, that Wanderlove is deceptively written. You spend a little while thinking you can take or leave it, but almost without you noticing, the novel snuggles its way inside you and you slowly come to see that you love it.

Wanderlove works whatever your age or experience: For all the teens who haven't travelled yet, Wanderlove probably has them saving up for plane tickets and for adults like me, who backpacked a long time ago, it brings all those memories back and makes you appreciate how effing great it was. Kirsten Hubbard is also a travel writer and it's obvious that she knows her stuff - lots of little details about the hostels, the bus rides, the people, are exactly right and make Wanderlove feel so real - and Central America sound so amazing. I want to go to the Lobsterfest in Belize so badly now. I wonder how many YA readers Wanderlove will send there.

Of course, a beautiful setting is not enough for a novel if it doesn't have a good story and good characters to put there. Wanderlove, however, delivers both. The journey the reader takes with Bria and Rowan parallels the one the characters have with each other and is typical of people who travel together: Starting out as mostly strangers, but the fact that they're sharing so many cool experiences brings them closer and soon there's a special bond between them. Both Bria and Rowan are trying to come to terms with difficult pasts and they are so great together by the end of the book; they mature together and have this trust and understanding between them that's enviable. (They're also incredibly hot together. There are a couple of scenes where Bria has to carefully study Rowan's body - purely for artistic reasons, of course - and I practically felt the steam coming off the page.)

Everything in Wanderlove is like that: It develops naturally. The novel is illustrated by Bria (well, really Hubbard - multi-talented, this one) but because she has artist's block when the novel opens, at first there are barely any drawings. But as she starts to deal with her issues, the drawings begin to decorate the text, so as well as being pretty, they make the reader happy for her. I especially liked when Bria drew the other characters - it made them seem real to me and I love to think that Starling and Rowan are really out there.

If you start to read Wanderlove and feel like it's not as great as I'm saying it is, my advice is to give it time. Just enjoy the journey - I promise you, you'll get there.

Rating: 4.5 stars

This book was provided to me by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for a fair and honest review.


  1. I smiled when I read this book snuggles its way into your heart! Great review. Sometimes the details make the story genuine. I love that the author has traveled and included small details about hotels like you mentioned.
    Looking forward to checking this one out!
    -Jenna @ Fans of Fiction

    1. Thanks! This book and the characters really made me feel warm inside and I couldn't think of a better way to describe it.

  2. This is my first time hearing of this book. Thanks for putting it on my radar. I like that it reaches people of all ages.


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