Released: March 13, 2012
I am reminded of the part in Little Women where Professor Bhaer gives Jo a bit of advice: write what you know. Obviously there isn't really a Godspeed, sparkling vampires, or arenas full of lethal children (thank God), so that advice isn't necessarily warranted in today's world of Young Adult literature. But Kirsten Hubbard's experience as a travel writer and frequent trips to Central America make Wanderlove a gorgeous novel no one else could have written.
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.
I am one who believes there should be more "older YA" on the shelves. How many twenty-year-olds feel like adults? Hell, I'm twenty-four, and I still feel like a kid playing house sometimes. The transition from high school to college/career/whatever the character does after high school is a huge part of growing up, and I am so glad Kirsten picked a recent graduate as her main character.
Bria is fresh out of high school, newly single, and unsure of her future. Despite warnings from her best friends who bailed on her, Bria signs up for a chaperoned trip to Guatemala. Before the plane even lands, Bria is embarrassed by her fellow travelers aka retirees and strict guides. All she wants is some freedom - to be carefree like the backpackers she envies. Before long, Bria breaks rank and joins a reserved backpacker named Rowan and his sister Starling. Although she almost immediately realizes backpacking isn't quite what she thought it would be, Bria follows the siblings across Central America discovering more about herself than the places and people surrounding her.
I very much enjoyed Hubbard's debut novel, Like Mandarin, for its beautiful descriptions and lyrical prose. These aspects are not missed in her sophomore novel, and as an added bonus, Kirsten includes her own artwork sprinkled throughout. She is extremely talented in both medias, and has an incredible way of inspiring me to travel to the places she so vividly describes. I may be a bit biased, as I had the pleasure of meeting Kirsten twice and enjoyed her very much; however, my love for her craft is genuine, I promise you.
Wanderlove is a unique view of the after-high-school experience, and whether you're backpacking across Central America or lingering around your hometown, any teen can relate to Bria's journey to self discovery.
FTC: I received an eARC of this novel from Random House via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.