Friday, February 03, 2012

Early Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard


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.

Reading Level: Young Adult
Publication Date: March 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Pages: 352
Series: no
Acquisition: received a copy for review
Heroine: Slim, short dark hair and eyes
Hero: Tall, swimmer's build, longish dark hair and blue eyes


My Review
4.5 stars

Bria Sandoval loves to draw. Ever since she was kid she would draw in every surface with anything available, and have the time of her life doing it. On her senior year she met the guy who looked perfect for her. An artist. Toby went to fancy art classes, knew secret drawing techniques and dreamt of going to SCAA, a big, famous arts school. And he made her want to go, too. They studied together, improved their skills and applied. 

Bria got in. But Toby didn't... he was jealous and bitter, so he dumped her.

Bria was completely crushed. After moping around for weeks, she decides to travel to Europe with her friends, just like she and Toby planned to do once they went to college together... but her friends end up not being able to go, and she can't possibly go alone to a place like Europe, right? Well, she certainly can, but not to a place that would make her think of him all the time.

She's going to Guatemala. To see the Mayan Ruins. With the Global Vagabonds, adventurous youngsters looking for knowledge and fun... At least that's what the pamphlet said. But when she gets to the Guatemala airport, all she sees are middle-aged people. And all they do is stick to safe places, seeing only what the travel plan states they should see, and for how long they should see it. 

Bria starts to regret the trip until she sees a beautiful kind of creature wondering along the boring tourists. A backpacker. A tall, bronzed-skin, ponytailed backpacker. Who invites her over for dinner on an island that is not on her travel guide. When she gets there, she remembers she doesn't know his name, but ends up finding more beautiful, tanned creatures like him. And one of them is Starling, an outspoken humanitarian. She explains to Bria that the 'ponytail guy' is her half-brother, a reformed troublemaker called Rowan, who teaches scuba diving. 

When Starling invites her to join them on their trip, she's scared, but very excited. After all, this whole thing was supposed to make her more independent, but the Global Vagabonds obviously weren't helping her with that cause... so she takes the risk, gives up two thirds of her suitcase's content and becomes a brand new backpacker. Rowan isn't exactly thrilled with the tag-along, but he accepts her well enough... until Starling up and leaves for a job in a small town called Flores, without even saying goodbye to her brother. Because, like she told Bria before leaving, they don't do goodbyes, they're just too painful. Rowan is even more not thrilled when he finds his sister gone and himself as the 'babysitter', but Bria starts to show him how great a companion she can be. How great a friend.

Bria learns that backpackers do things cheap. And saving money means giving up on comfort. And life luxuries, such as showers, hot water and cold drinks. But they also see the most amazing things that ordinary travelers always miss out on. They see hidden natural beauty, they see the reality of life in Central America, they learn and they grow as they travel. They ake new friends and they fall in love.

I have to admit that at the beginning there were a few times the book was a bit boring, but I'm glad I endured it, LOL, because then it gets crazy good! I stayed up late just to finish it! I didn't want to wait to see what happened. Bria is a an excellent artist, and her drawings fill the book, making it so much more... personal (author Kirsten Hubbard was also the artist). You can literally picture what's happening, what she's seeing and feeling. And it's a beautiful addition to such a great story. She finds herself, her art, her heart. And helps Rowan finds himself and his purpose, too. It's truly touching.

If you enjoy realistic fiction young adult books with a lot of travel, growing up, romance and drama, grab Wanderlove right now. :)

* I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

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