Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

4 Stars. (Contemporary YA - Travel Premise)
ARC provided by Netgalley. 

Hardcover, 335 pages
Expected publication: March 13th 2012 
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard was a surprisingly great read. 
I was enraptured from the first page and couldn't find a good place to stick my bookmark. I stayed up way too late reading this book, so drawn in by the descriptions of Central America and Bria's own experiences as she found her way in this new tropical landscape.

Bria Sandoval is trying to escape, she running and wondering and trying to discover a part of herself she's lost, or a part of herself she never knew she had. Ultimately she'd trying to re-invent herself after friends, family and an ass of a boyfriend have all let her down with their lack of support and understanding. Bria is an artist and along with her loss of sense of self, she's also lost her will to draw, something that had consumed her so lovingly and made her so happy for so many years. She spontaneously decides to sign herself up for a tour of Central America, to visit Mayan ruins and see something of the world. Unbeknownst to her, Bria signs up for the wrong tour and gets stuck with a stuffy tour group full of people twice her age, only intent on staying on the beaten path and sticking to the rules. Bria meets a brother and sister duo - Starling and Rowan - both experts at straying into the wild and they both take her under their wing. She's got potential as a backpacker and Bria is desperate to shake herself up.

What transpires is a great travel book full of fun moments, great descriptions of place and loving characters you can't help but latch onto. Even the characters you can't stand are well drawn and totally believable. I really enjoyed Bria as a character and liked seeing her evolution from the sad, mixed up and hurt girl she was at the beginning of the trip, into the confident, sensitive, happy and capable girl she became by the end.

Rowan was a really great balance for Bria, an experienced traveler with his own set of hang ups and mistakes he's trying to make up for, he led her into the wild and kept her from shying away from experiences and retreating into herself. One of the best parts of this book was the slow progression of trust and friendship between these two characters. They each had trust issues, experiences with people from their past that kept them from wanting to fully confide in one another, but ultimately it was a such a nice and loving friendship with developed.

The setting was a third character in the book. So rich and lush in the descriptions of the different islands, Kristen Hubbard did a wonderful job of giving readers the sense that they were traveling alongside Bria and Rowan and the rest. I felt like I was in Belize and Guatemala, I felt like I was sitting in the sand and swinging in a hammock and could clearly picture everywhere these two landed on their journeys. I think it was a really smart and unique choice to place the book in Central America. I love travel books, they always make me want to book a flight to somewhere exotic, but the books are usually set in either Europe or become cross country trips across the US. I love each of these settings to pieces, but I hadn't yet come across a book that took flight in a tropical setting. I realized that I loved it and it made me imagine myself far away in the wilds of Belize having the time of my life along the way.

A really great read and just what I needed. Kristen Hubbard gives readers an insightful, charming read with just enough depth to make the characters feel familiar and the place feel like a haven. 

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