Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

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 into 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.

Gorgeously written and completely authentic (it comes as no surprise to me that Hubbard is a travel writer and backpacker herself) Wanderlove is a book that took me by surprise. 

I have to confess, I got off to a rocky start with Wanderlove. From the beginning, I liked the prose (loved the cadence of certain lines). Hubbard writes fantastically, she gets right in under Bria’s skin, perhaps painfully so: Bria felt so inferior, so uncertain, at the beginning and the feeling was so perfectly conveyed that I felt awkward. It made me uneasy, watching her lie to impress, stumbling her way along. Enter Rowan, he had his instant charms, sure, but he irked me as well: that kind of suave confidence that comes from knowing you’re hot, being young and invincible and over-all knowing everything. It also did not sit well with me when Hubbard portrayed middle-aged (often overweight) tourists as inferior, ridiculous and people to be sneered down upon (from the backpackers perspective). Then again, perhaps this is how teens/young adults view regular tourists? It did not endear the backpacking culture to me. 

Despite my initial reservations, there was a certain authenticity about the writing that drew me in and I decided to make it to 50% and see if it grew on me. MY GOSH ~ I am so glad I did not abandon this book. In fact, the second half so enthralled me that I ended up staying up past midnight to finish it off and I read the last page with a happy sigh ~ I really, really liked it. 

Here’s what I loved (in the end): 

The way Hubbard evoked all five senses, casting a kind of spell over the reader so I felt as if I were travelling (it gave me itchy feet) 

The way Hubbard showed (expert) restraint in crafting the romantic subplot. It was the perfect amount of sexual tension, ambiguity and genuine connection between Bria and Rowan. 

The crafting of the plot: it snuck up on me, all the little threads and foreshadowing which gave it a constant momentum. Even as I could see where many of the character arcs were headed, I was alongside them, hanging out to get there. 

The illustrations. GUYS, they are gorgeous, evocative and stunning. It added so much to the experience, I looked forward to each picture. I can still conjure up the pictures even now, in my minds eye. LOVE. 

Overall: okay, I know the beginning of my review sounded harsh, but don’t let it put you off reading this book. It is a stand-out of the year (read in 2011) and I am so glad Kirsten Hubbard is writing for teens as I feel they will connect so well to her characters. I am really hanging out to see what she writes next. What a talented author, hey :) 

Wanderlove will be out March 13, 2012
Wanderlove @ goodreads

Thanks to Random House Children's Books and Netgalley

FYI: I attempted to read Kirtsen Hubbards debut, Like Mandarin, and it wasn't for me (thematically, topically and I found the prose overbearingly pretty at times), so if you had a similar experience with Like Mandarin, I urge you to give Hubbard another go, Wanderlove truly is fantastic. 


  1. I've had this on my to-read list for a while but now your review has convinced me that I need to find a copy NOW! I love travel books because I don't do enough travelling myself and it sounds like a fun read.

  2. I've been SO excited for this one since the premise is about backpacking. I haven't read her debut but I'm planning on getting around to it once school lets up a bit... anyways, great review<3

  3. I need to post my review soon. I really loved everything about this book and I'm glad that you stuck with it!!

  4. urm, hell yeah for a new post! so good to see one from you hun. i'm actually really glad you reviewed this, because i read some pages of wanderlove and put it back down. i thought it was a little ignorant too. maybe that's what annoyed me about it. but i'm going to give it another go since it obviously really improved. lovely review as always dear :)

  5. Great review, Nomes! I wasn't sure about this book but I'm tempted now :-D

  6. I agree. I put Like Mandarin down after only a few pages but this book was fantastic.

  7. I've been hearing good things about this book. I think it's something that I'd enjoy reading because I'd love to travel more (if I had more money). Got rejected when I requested for it in NetGalley so I might just wait for it to come out in paperback before I get it.

  8. Rowan was cocky...you are right! And Hubbard's writing is gorgeous! I loved the illustrations! :) Great review Nomes!

    And thanks for answering my question about Nic. Blogging it TONS of work and I constantly think about giving it up so I understand. I just miss her reviews :)

  9. Like Mandarin is one of my favourite books, and Wanderlove is (by far) my most anticipated book of 2012. This review somehow has me even more excited. Gorgeous review.

    1. Oh, this book was SO GOOD. perfect for my preferences, really. upper YA, SWOON!!! (but you have to wait for it, perfect romantic tension and build-up). plus the artwork is STUNNING! cant wait for you to read it :)

    2. And I'm so glad to know to wait for it because I give up on books so easily. My excitement for this has basically tripled within an hour, can't wait for the 13th! :)

  10. I'm so glad you stuck with Wanderlove and it clicked with you! I loved Bria's growth in the end and all of the tension between her and Rowan and how she kind of becomes a totally different, more confident person.

    And the drawings? Those were such a highlight!

  11. I completely agree with you! When she was lying in the beginning, I could feel myself blushing when she was found out as it was so awkward. The rest of the book, however, was absolutely fabulous!

  12. Oh that's a good point about the beginning, with them looking down on tourists so much. I was like "oh sorry I wouldn't be cool or grungy enough for you, I guess"

    But yah, minus a few little annoying parts this book was AMAAAAZING, so so good


Thanks for the commenty love :)