Expected Publication Date: March 13, 2012
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.
Kirsten Hubbard's Wanderlove completely blew me away. I started reading it late one night, thinking I would get in a few chapters before bed. At 5:30 am the next morning, I sat stunned by how much I loved this book. I must confess, I was a little afraid to try it at first. I somehow got the impression that this might be a sort of Eat, Pray, Love for teens - but I was very, very wrong.
It is easy to get caught up in the trite descriptions of what Wanderlove is: a coming of age novel, a travel book, a summer romance. It is all of these things, but so much more. Hubbard's writing possesses something that is hard to describe or define but is felt soul deep almost instantly. You feel what her characters feel, see what they see; the words disappear from the page as you find yourself transported into her world.
I love that each character has a voice that is authentically their own. I love that you are forced to get to know them on their own terms. I love that there is always a defined sense of place with each setting. I love that each place is allowed the same nuance that Hubbard affords her characters. I love that countries are not used as cheep backdrops for some privileged person's self discovery, but rather places full of people who actually live there. I love that Bria and Rowan are trying to escape themselves, but are not allowed to do so. I love that they learn to know each other before they start to like each other, much less love each other. I love that Hubbard never takes the easy way out of anything. I love that she surprises me. I love the way passion and art and purpose are all treated in the book. I love Hubbard's illustrations.
In Wanderlove, Hubbard does in one book something that many authors try and fail to do in trilogies or sprawling series: she allowed her characters to bridge the gap between child and adult. Her characters go from externalizing blame to accepting responsibility for their actions. They accept that they have sabotaged themselves, but must forgive themselves as well. They learn that they must make things happen for themselves, rather than waiting for someone else; that "sometimes, what you love the most is what you have to fight the hardest to keep." I don't know what else to say but, 'read it'. You won't regret it.
Some quotes I loved:
Toby liked to say he chose not to be impulsive. As if being impulsive were something you consciously decide. When I look at Starling, with her turquoise turban and wet knot of hair, and at Rowan, with his stack of cheap string anklets, I think: Impulsive isn't something you choose. It's something you are. Like gay, or freckled or bipolar. Something I pretend to be but am not. Not really. Not deep down.
"Isn't that what your memory was about, Bria? Losing control?"
I pause. "I never knew memories were about anything. Besides the obvious. You make them sound like dreams -- subject to interpretation."
"I think the two are more related than we realize. It's all in how our minds frame them. How we decide what -- and how -- we remember."
"But all that's hugely unlikely -- with the exception of mosquito bites and sunburn. And yet even experienced travelers are still afraid.
"What everyone forgets -- even me -- is the people who actually live here. In places like Central America, I mean. Southeast Asia. India. Africa. Millions, even billions, of people, who live out their whole lives in these places -- the places so many people like us fear. Think about it: they ride chicken buses to work every day. Their clothes are always damp. Their whole lives, they never escape the dust and the heat. But they deal with all these discomforts. They have to.
"So why can't travelers? If we've got the means to get here, we owe it to the country we're visiting not to treat it like an amusement park, sanitized for our comfort. It's insulting to the people who live here. People just trying to have the best lives they can, with he hands they've been dealt."
Hearing about vacations is like hearing about dreams -- no one cares except the person who's experienced them.
Review Copy provided by Delacorte Books.
Review also on Goodreads