Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

WanderloveBook:  Wanderlove
Author: Kirsten Hubbard
Release Date: March 13th, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Pages: 338
My rating: 5 Stars

Goodreads Summary:
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

There needs to be a destination, even if it's way off in the haze of my unlived life. And in that life, I'd like to be an artist.

I have a headache from reading this book. I think this is one of the few times where I'm pleased, despite the pounding in my head.

I honestly didn't expect the impact this story would leave on me. Maybe a few iguanas, some rain forest talk, barracudas...But Hubbard managed to make this into something profound. She brought the eternal problem of discovering yourself to South America, and in the process, she made something beautiful.

To begin with, the main character, Bria, has incredible character development. Over the course of her stay in various places of the wilderness, she develops her own independence and confidence in fighting for what she loves. Of course, she is pretty pitiful in the beginning, but I found it adorable instead of irritating. She has a voice that's completely sincere. As a teenager, I can completely sympathize with the way she feels: torn between places. Her connection to her art reminded me of how much I love my own writing and the possessiveness that comes with our own personal creations. Also, I loved the little pieces that Hubbard would slip in that made Bria so much more believable. For example, there's this one part when she's trying to put on her summer dress in front of Rowan and two other girls and gets stuck before she can get it all the way on. It's stuff like that that makes me believe that the author really has gotten into the mindset of the characters she's writing and knows that it's not just pretty words that makes a story: it's voice. And I'm happy to say that Bria's is an especially enjoyable one to read.

Onto Rowan. Damn, does he sound like a delicious piece of man meat. Despite his ponytail. Ha. I loved that he had his own problems, and that his bad boy past hadn't turned him into some dark poetry-reciting maniac (It has happened in other books. I would know.). Throughout the story, he comes off as someone truly likable and sweet, with a big heart and secrets of his own that he won't share unless the right person comes along. I loved tracking how he changes and opens himself to Bria throughout the novel, and I'm thankful that Hubbard never made their love story easy. Caution: whenever Rowan and Bria seem to be getting along better, don't get your hopes up. Something, be it Scandinavian giants or seasickness, will probably mess it up. Those who've read this book know what I'm talking about. But it all comes down to the issue of trusting someone else, not just with your safety, but with who you really are. That's why those who are sick of insta-love and unrealistic characters should read this book. There are real discoveries of what it means to exist in this world, and what it takes to step out of the comfort zone and pursue dreams that are actually worthwhile.

Not only do we have a hilarious, lovable, and begrudging travel couple, we have the beautiful backdrop of South America and the Caribbean. After all this, I have a hankering to visit there. Although I would never backpack. It sounds brutal, and I like comfortable hotels. Yup. Anyway, the way Hubbard describes the seas and brilliant sunsets are so vivid, it makes me yearn to be able to experience it once in my life, too. The drawings that were included were a lovely addition, especially the last couple ones, which let me visualize what kinds of people Starling, Rowan, and Bria are. I'm actually considering buying this book, which is big, since I'm pretty stingy in buying books because I think I won't ever read them again.

In truth, I don't think any review I write can do this book justice. You'd have to read it to know why I love it so much. Just like Bria observes that people can't understand the beauty of travel unless they've done it themselves.

So...yeah. READ THIS BOOK. If you don't like it (which is doubtful), at the very least you won't have felt like you lost brain cells in the end.

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