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Wanderlove Hardcover – March 13, 2012
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Bria Sandoval always thought her future was art school at Toby’s side, but then Toby showed his true colors. Now Bria has left both Toby and her art while she backpacks in Central America and considers her future. A random encounter with fellow packers in a Guatemalan airport leads Bria to ditch her tour group to go off the beaten path with Rowan. From staying in hostels and washing laundry in chipped sinks, to scuba diving and eating fried plantains, Bria sees the world around her afresh. This unique tale of self-discovery features an appealing heroine who learns to stop running away and look within. The romantic tension between Rowan and Bria is palpable but complex and believable. With an extraordinary setting, delicately rendered and well informed by Hubbard’s years as a guide to Central American travel on About.com, this becomes a wonderful story of kindred souls in a land of beauty, illuminated by Hubbard’s own drawings. Grades 10-12. --Melissa Moore
"This journey will resonate with anyone who has braved the unknown in search of adventure -and ended up finding themselves in the process."
--Andrea J. Buchanan, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller The Daring Book for Girls
"Hubbard's second novel, following Like Mandarin, is rich with the unexpected joys and tribulations of new experiences ... Bria's charged relationship with Rowan and the vast emotional and physical territory Hubbard covers make for an evocative and romantic read."
"The romantic tension between Rowan and Bria is palpable ... With an extraordinary setting, delicately rendered and well informed by Hubbard's years as a guide to Central American travel on About.com, this becomes a wonderful story of kindred souls in a land of beauty, illuminated by Hubbard's own drawings."
"Hubbard has crafted delightfully complex characters who are fresh and realistic... The romance between Bria and Rowan is constantly on a slow burn, leaving readers wondering until the end--will they or won't they end up together?"
"Thrillingly romantic, smart and funny."
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I love traveling. When I read the blurb for this book on Netgalley, I was sold before I even finished! This book changed my outlook on life. I feel like there was a little bit of me laced within the text. I felt like I was discovering the same things about myself as Bria did--like she was living the story I was supposed to be living. I'm kind of jealous she got to go on the trip, and I just read about it! There is not one thing about this book that I didn't adore, so let's begin the fangirl review right here. This is going to be really hard! I always have a really hard time writing a review for a book I love, so we'll see how this goes!
1. Bria did something I would LOVE to do. She just picked up and went on this crazy adventure through Central America. Along the way, she learned so much about herself and gained a lot of life experience. Plus, she saw amazing places, experienced new things, met cool people, and fell in love. I envy her tenacity, and the fact that she had the guts to fly off on her own like that!
2. This book is artsy! Bria is an artist, and a traveler. Do you know who Bria really is? Bria is ME! Her love of art shone through everything she did, and everything she said. I totally identified with her for these reasons. Kirsten Hubbard is also artsy, thus one of the reasons I love her! She illustrated parts of this book with amazing little pictures! They added so much to the story. I'm totally buying a finished copy of this when it comes out. How can I not support a fellow artist? I can't wait to see what this looks like when it's all put together (and not on a Kindle screen).
3. Part of this book takes place in Belize! I love Belize! I was there two summers ago, and it was pretty amazing. It was extremely hot and humid and I was drenched and exhausted, but I loved it! Funny side story: I was held at gunpoint in a tiny little tour boat in the middle of the ocean by several men in the Belizean Coast Guard. The driver of the boat was in some trouble, apparently, and tried to jump out. At one point the tour guide mumbled under her breath, "This is where they kill us." I'm pretty sure I was not supposed to hear that. Luckily, things got ironed out and we were sent on our way. But OH MAN. What a story, huh? Haha.
4. I loved Rowan. He's this reformed bad-boy with a travel bug who hops around from destination to destination teaching diving courses and backpacking to hole-in-the-wall hostels where everyone already knows him. He just sounds pretty darn amazing. He's really mysterious and hardened, but a softy when his walls are torn down. And he's bookish. Yes please! Some of the banter between him and Bria was hilarious, and the tension between those two had me itching to read more and more about them.
5. The scenery. OH MAN. You can tell Kirsten Hubbard is a travel writer, because the scenery she wrote about was so perfectly described that I could feel the hot sun bearing down on me, the sand between my toes, and the humidity trying to suffocate me. The rainforests and waterfalls and mangroves and Mayan ruins and scenic lakes... I was totally there. This book felt so authentic and realistic. I do think it's the most well done of all the books I've read with a travel element. I could not get enough of these descriptions, and I REALLY hope that Kirsten writes another travel book soon.
6. I loved the slow burn we experience with Bria and Rowan. There is no insta-love here, thank goodness. They start out tolerating one another and gradually move towards a friendship that you can tell is totally going places. It was so sweet and wonderful to read about. They fit so well together, but it takes them a while to fix themselves enough to notice. I loved seeing how they worked through their own problems, and helped each other when they could. They encouraged the best out of each other, which I loved. They were better together than they were apart.
7. Finally, this book brings good things out in me. I've got all these amazing goals now, to travel more, to practice my art more, to be spontaneous, to let my hair down and not worry what other people think, to look to the future, to develop other talents, to conquer fears, and to enjoy my life more.
I loved this book. I can't say enough good things about it, and I feel like my review is extremely inadequate. This is the kind of book that everyone should read. It's the kind of book that encourages you to take the bull by the horns and go with it. I just felt so refreshed by the end, like I had been the one to go on a whirlwind trip that changed my life. To me, books have always been an escape and this one did the best job at taking me somewhere. I would recommend this to anyone, but read with caution! You'll end up catching Wanderlove, which I hear takes a whole lot of adventure and self-discovery to find the cure for.
(This review was originally posted on my blog, That Artsy Reader Girl)
Penning an extended review for "Wanderlove" intimidates me to an extent, because I don't know if I can write an apt enough description of how much I loved this book. The characters, the intimacy in the sense of place, the immersion I felt and the need to not want to put it down (even in points where I absolutely had to). It's among my favorite YA (though I would also argue overall) reads of 2012. I would highly recommend this for those who love coming of age stories, stories with a rich immersion within a different culture, and identification with characters that take a life of their own inside the pages of the work.
The story revolves around 18-year-old Bria Sandoval, a young woman who wants nothing more than to reinvent herself after graduating from high school. Having abandoned her artistic ambitions, left behind her ex-boyfriend, and ultimately feeling that she needed a drastic change in her life, she decides to go backpacking in Central America. Sounds fun, right? Only when she arrives to meet with her tour group - it isn't the experience she expects. It isn't until Bria meets the charming Rowan and his outspoken sister Starling that she decides to go rogue and embark on her own tour of Central America with them.
Both Rowan and Bria share a common thread - a need to get away from their old lives and reinvent themselves. Rowan works as an assistant diving instructor, keeping himself grounded after leading a rather wild lifestyle. Bria wants to get more out of her shell and transcend her boundaries. Both of them learn a bit about each other in the process, but realize that if they both want to move forward, they have to find some way of coming to terms with their pasts. The way that Hubbard depicts Rowan and Bria's relationship with each other, as well as Bria's coming to terms with the life she left behind and the choices ahead of her is sooo good. I mean, wicked good. There's a healthy blend of exploring the places that Bria and Rowan travel (conducive to Hubbard's real life experiences), a blend of exploring the strengths, weaknesses and experiences of each character, and beautiful illustrations that pepper the book in places. "Wanderlove" appealed to me in so many ways, these aspects included.
I think I developed a fictional crush on Rowan as well. I have a very small list of fictional crushes compared to most, my saying that I crushed (hard) on Rowan is no understatement. The image of him in the book matched exactly the image I had in my head of him (he's so cute, funny, and sweet, I'm not even sorry.) But I digress. :)
It's refreshing to see when an author can shape and show characters in a realistic way that helps the reader identify with them as the events of the novel come to pass. Bria's a bit of a lost soul having to come to terms with pains in her past, and deciding where she wants to go with her future. Rowan is a bit in the same path, though he's shaping his own path to redeeming himself from missteps that he's had, and re-establishing trust in his own relationships. It's not an easy road, but Hubbard compliments it with a healthy dose of humor that makes it all the more charming to read/see in action.
The locations of the work are provided in stunning detail, one that appealed to my inner desire to travel internationally in the future. In the depictions that Hubbard provides through Bria's voice, I found myself traveling right along with her and being in awe of the sights, sounds and life within her travels. I really, really wish there were more stories as vivid as this in literature in general, because its fascinating to see how a culture is perceived as its experienced for any viewer, whether novice or experienced.
Overall, this is one of the few books where, after putting it down, I wanted to pick it right back up again and read it. It was that good, and I wouldn't hesitate to add this to my own reading collection and encourage others to do the same.
Overall score: 5/5