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.
OPINION: 5 STARS
The Short Version:
Enchanting, alluring and empowering, Wanderlove spins a new kind of tale on finding yourself and having fun while doing it. With a vivid setting that is almost magical in its reality, and a main character that every reader can find at least a piece of themselves in, this one holds not only a unique setting but phenomenal characterization that is rapidly becoming a beautiful mark of Hubbard’s abilities. With gorgeous drawings woven into the story at the perfect moments, Wanderlove is a blend of not only traveling but the arts in a magnificent way.
The Extended Version:
Bria is reserved in enough ways to make her decision to take off to Central America a shock to her family and friends, and even herself. Her determination to step outside of her usual bounds, however, shines strongly from page one and builds an instant bond to readers. With a great internal strength, a sense of constant fortitude that keeps her going even in the roughest of moments, and a depth that is built with each turn of the page, Bria’s definitely the kind of character that will be relatable to just about any reader, no matter their background.
Rowan is endearing in all the right ways, strong and intense yet soft and intriguing. Intelligent yet guarded, Rowan holds plenty of secrets while remaining open in enough ways to keep the reader interested without being frustrated. His interactions with Bria fly off the pages, building their relationship in a realistic, steady manner while moving enough to leave a mark on both early on. With a unique and charming relationship with his sister, and a deep sense of camaraderie between them, Rowan brings plenty of fresh elements to the table while still being everything a love interest should be.
Starling, Rowan’s sister, is about as vivid and full of life as they come, and will leave as memorable an impression on the reader as Bria or Rowan. Though centering in a fantastic way around Rowan and Bria, there are several other characters with plenty of depth and face time without detracting from the central aspect of the plot. The impact each has on Bria is clear and defined, and her overall character growth is tremendously handled not only through what she endures but the people she meets.
The plot is steady, filled with plenty of emotional scenes to tear at reader’s hearts while also giving plenty of laughs, grins and amusement. Though certainly character driven, there is also an external component to this one that adds an extra layer and pulls the reader in more. Unpredictable not only because of the foreign setting and related events, but in the actual execution as well, there is plenty to keep readers on their toes while also giving the satisfaction of being able to piece things together.
Hubbard’s writing is stellar, having an almost magical and entrancing quality to it that cannot easily be put into words. Making the setting as vivid and memorable as any character, and describing in a way that is never mundane or something the reader will want to skip over, Hubbard has an almost unmatched ability in the way she weaves words onto the page. Literary while still being rich in voice, this one pitches the full beauty and extent of Central America in a way that readers without any experience can understand and imagine.
A unique element of this book is the artwork interspersed throughout, drawn by Hubbard herself. Guiding the reader in imaging things without forcing them into a specific picture, and showcasing the author’s talent, these additions build the book in a fantastic and appealing way. Coupled with the rampant and magnetic writing, and the stellar characterization that shines on every page, Wanderlove will ignite a desire to travel in even the most reserved of readers.
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 13, 2012