Author: Kirsten Hubbard
Release Date: 03/13/12
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Description: 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.
Thoughts: Let’s get my biggest problem with this book out of the way first: the cover. For years (well, a little less than two) I haven’t wanted to read this book because I thought the main character would be too artsy and free for me. Even the description didn’t quite disprove what I thought based on the cover with descriptions of “independence,” “neglected art,” and “no-strings-attached hookups.” That just didn’t sound like something I wanted to read. But, BUT, I was so incredibly wrong. Seriously people, do not judge a book by its damn cover or its silly description.
Wanderlove totally captivated me from the moment I started. Did I wish we knew more about Bria off the bat? Why yes I did, but her voice, sense of humor, and closed-off-yet-curious personality totally drew me in. When the story starts Bria, a former artist, is getting ready to go on a big Central American adventure. She was supposed to travel with her ex-boyfriend, but after they broke up that obviously wasn’t going to happen. For much of the book the reasons for their breakup is only hinted at and we see bits and pieces of what was wrong with their relationship, something that drives me crazy. After the ex was ruled out Bria then planned to travel with her best friends, but they bail on her, too. On a whim she decides to go by herself and signs up for what she thinks will be a fun tour group, but when she gets to Guatemala the tour is all middle-aged people who are scared to go off the beaten path.
Bria doesn’t know exactly what she wants. While she knows she doesn’t like the super-planned, sanitized version of Guatemala that she’s seeing with her tour group, she’s also afraid to go off by herself in this unknown country. This was a sentiment that I could definitely relate to. One night she accepts the invitation of a backpacker, Rowan, who she meets at the Mayan market, to go over to his island hostel for dinner and she ends up ditching the tour group and setting off with Rowan and his half-sister Starling. Something that the adult in me was a little horrified about, but I also was really proud of Bria for taking the leap to try something new and unknown.
At first I was surprised that it wasn’t just Bria and Rowan, but Bria, Rowan, and Starling, but I came to really like Starling. Rowan has had some bad experiences and he’s really closed off so I liked the insight and perspective that Starling brings to the story. Plus, even though there is romance in this book it’s a really small part of the story compared to Bria figuring out what she wants. There are so many stories about teenagers discovering themselves, but this one is a real stand out in my opinion. The changes that happen in Bria are subtle, but so well done. Gradually, over the course of the book, she really comes out of her shell, becomes independent, and even starts working on her art again.
Bottom Line: I am so happy I finally gave this book a chance. Bria is a funny, sweet, compelling main character and the story did not disappoint. I’ve never had any desire to backpack through Central America, but I don’t know, I might need to make my way to Guatemala and Belize based on what I read here.