Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard

WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 13, 2012

About: 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.

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.

My Review: I was a huge fan of Hubbard's debut, LIKE MANDARIN, and was super excited when she first told us about WANDERLOVE at a signing during Book Expo of America last year. It sounded like an amazing book then, and now, it's one of my favorite contemps ever. 

Bria is an artist, but in recent months she's suffered a terrible break-up and has lost that part of herself that she used to love so much. When her best friends bail out on a trip they were supposed to be taking together, Bria decides she's going to prove everyone wrong and go alone. It's a guided trip, after all. How dangerous could it be? 

Bria doesn't quite realize it, but everything changes for her minute she's on the airplane to Central America. Call it random luck or fate, but after Bria meets Starling and her brother Rowan, she must make the decision to stay with her tour group or to join the brother-sister pair on a real adventure. One look at the crowd she's traveling with in her global vagabonds tour group, and Bria realizes she really only has one option. She skips out on the older tour and joins Starling and Rowan on the trip of a lifetime. 

Starling soon abandons Rowan and Bria for another destination, but first makes Bria promise to watch out for Rowan's troublesome past. The instant Starling is gone, the tension between Brian and Rowan is ratcheted up ten-fold and makes WANDERLOVE un-put-downable. 

I loved everything and every word in this book. The flasbacks to Bria's past were brilliant and agonizing. I couldn't flip the pages fast enough to find out exactly what had happened to this girl who used to have to have such passion for drawing. And the really cool thing about this novel is that it's peppered with drawings by Hubbard herself. The images matched perfectly with the storyline and enhanced the words on the page much the way the perfect wine compliments a good steak. 

The long of the short is, Kirsten Hubbard is now at the very top of my favorite contemp writers. I could not put down WANDERLOVE and am super excited to see what she comes out with next. If you haven't already done so, you should purchase a copy of this book immediately.

My Rating:

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