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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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This is the story of a young woman, Bria, who, during the summer before she is supposed to enter college decides to join an organized tour in Central America to see Mayan ruins. She is still basically in a state of mourning over a recent breakup with a jerk of a boyfriend, and despite his mistreatment of her, Bria cannot move on. She avoids the art that she had loved so much and also seems to avoid any activity that has any connection to this failed relationship. She joins this tour group with the expectation of meeting other people her age who can explore this exotic atmosphere with her. Instead she finds that she is with a group of retirees and older people who are looking for a safe and predictable experience.
In the midst of this experience that is turning out to be a huge disappointment for Bria, she comes into contact with Starling and Rowan, a brother and sister duo who are backpacking through the countries of Central America. They are doing this on the cheap, staying in hostels and riding filthy, borderline unsafe buses to get from place to place. Bria ends up joining them on their trip and experiences an entirely different side of the world she is exploring. Soon Starling leaves them, leaving Rowan to guide Bria through this unfamiliar landscape. Like Bria, Rowan is also trying to turn a corner in his life and is unwilling to share his personal demons with Bria. Despite the unwillingness in both of them to share the things that hurt them in their past, Bria and Rowan eventually form a good traveling relationship.
There is a romance in this story, and although I absolutely love romances in stories and liked this one very well, I have to say that the romance is not what drove the plot at all. This was a travel story, and the magic of the story was in the descriptions of the people and scenes of the Central American scenes that Hubbard describes throughout the novel. I could practically smell the nastiness of some of the dirty buses and hostels that Bria found herself in. I could feel the sweat rolling down my body as Bria thought of the high heat and humidity she experienced. The descriptions of the sand on the beaches and the feel of the mud and water between Bria's toes seemed so real. Even the sounds of the rain forest as Bria lay listening at night came alive for me. It was just beautiful to read. I found myself wishing that I could take just such a trip to experience the real world of ordinary people in the world, not just the sanitized tour versions that are advertised.
As Bria finds herself entrenched in this new environment where so much of the complications of modern life are stripped away, she discovers who she is. Rowan helps her to let go of the hurtful actions of her ex-boyfriend and embrace the things she loves the most. She came on this trip in a way to escape and throw herself into activities that have no meaning and therefore have little risk of harming her emotionally. Instead she finds out how to take charge of her life and let herself find joy in the things that matter to her. It was a great journey to read about. I was so happy to have gotten to tag along vicariously as a reader.
I liked that the themes in this book weren't portrayed as being crystal clear and easily overcome. I like that Bria and Rowan were both flawed in their own ways, and as the novel ended they were still flawed. But they were better, and they had plans for the future that allowed each of them to find comfort and power in one another. Life isn't always pretty, but it isn't this hopeless pool of sadness and disappoint that would require us to avoid any connections to others for fear of being hurt. Instead, life is full of potential, both good and bad, but as we embrace the people and activities we love we can find our own joy as we navigate the waters. That is the message I got after reading this book. It is a book I will read again, I am sure. Maybe next time I'll take my time and enjoy the scenery even more. This is a beautiful travel story, as much a love story involving the countries, lifestyle, and people of South America as it is a love story of two young people who discover each other in the midst of it. I highly recommend this book!
Bria, a freshly graduated 18 year old, decides she wants to travel. See the world--with her boyfriend, except, well, he was now the ex-boyfriend, so scratch that, she'd go with Olivia and Reese, her two best friends. But they bailed on her too. Determined not to spend the summer crying over Toby and fussing over which of her friends she would hang out with, because they didn't exactly like each other, she became A Global Vagabond... only better.
She boards the plane, headed for Central America, ready to explore the sites when a whimsy girl plops down beside her. Starling is flouncy and curious, friendly. Overly so considering Bria has not a freakin' clue what she's spewing from her mouth. What Bria doesn't realize is Starling is an experienced backpacker and Bria is only causing herself to look like a fool every single time she spoke.
Only one foolish thing to bite her in the butt, right? Well, not quite, but when Bria meets up with the tour group she's traveling with, they're all middle-aged and not at all what she pictured. Every single minute of their day is planned, the Vagabonds are filled with rules of where you can go, what to eat, who to talk to, so basically it was like living at home, only worse.
I enjoyed Wanderlove with all my heart. Bria's experiences, even the ones I shook my head at, feeling a secondary embarrassment for her--when Rowan invited her to dinner--were ones I wished I'd been smart enough to take on right out of high school. Travel, even by backpack. My family camped, I was no stranger to the wilderness. The time learning to take care of myself away from my family would've been some dang good therapy. Though I cannot imagine my mother's face if I told her I was going to Central America to backpack my way from one place to another. I'm actually smiling thinking about it now.
Kirsten Hubbard's words carved a miraculous world and filled the pages with beautiful, but sometimes, broken characters. Starling, the optimistic friend and sister who never let anyone flail, lost and wondering for too long. Rowan, the charismatic prankster who had had his share of fun and, equally, his share of trouble, who wears his heart on his sleeve, wove his way into my heart. Making me angry one moment and causing my body to shake with laughter the next. And Bria, the brave heroine. She's never whiny, and takes to the world of backpacking with the grace of ballerina.
I'm certain some parents would not appreciate what I took from this story, but the advice I've given my oldest--and will give my youngest when she's there--is to really experience all you want in life when you are young. Travel, have fun, but most importantly, no matter how you do it... keep learning. Education, in all its forms, is invaluable.