Wanderlove by Kristen HubbardWanderlove by Kristen Hubbard
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 352
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

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.

* * *

I love traveling. Granted, I’m not the most traveled person around, but I love being able to go to places. I love seeing new things, I love being (almost) anonymous in a sea of people who may or may not understand me. I love figuring out how a train system goes and how I can go from one place to another. The itch to travel hasn’t been that big in me until I got to go to Europe last year, and ever since then, I’ve been thinking of other places in the world that I must see in this lifetime. There’s something about being able to achieve a traveling dream that makes you want to travel again, especially while I still can. I’ve got a bucket list of places that I want to go to and while a part of me wonders how will I be ever able to afford all those trips, it does not stop me from dreaming.

I guess that’s why Wanderlove was such a hit with me. Bria Sandoval wanted to be a global vagabond, especially after her senior year in high school spun out of control and left her lost. She signs up for the Global Vagabonds tour to Central America, thinking that she would be with people her age. But the brochure she read was wrong and she ended up being with a group of tourists that followed a too-rigid schedule for her to actually find time to rediscover herself. Then she runs into a group of backpackers — real backpackers who go from one place to another with just the clothes and the bags on their backs — led by dive instructor with a bad boy aura Rowan, and his humanitarian sister Starling. Bria takes the chance and joins them. It’s the trip of a lifetime for Bria, and she hopes that somewhere along the way, against the backdrop of Mayan temples and Belizean islands, she finds exactly what she was looking for.

Again, I love traveling. But truth be told, traveling is kind of a cliche interest among people my age, at least from where I come from. Everyone wants to travel, because it’s such a good way to spend money and to see something new. But I know that only a few of those people who has put “traveling” in their interests can actually quit their jobs, sell everything and just travel.

I know I am definitely not one of those people.

The backpackers in Wanderlove? They’re the real deal.

I wasn’t really expecting to love this book so much. I was just expecting to like it, but not really like it. But I was captured from page one. I loved Bria — her doubts and uncertainties, how she pretends to be a well-seasoned traveler even if that wasn’t true. I loved how different she was from the first chapter to the last, and how her fears can translate into something universal, even if I’m not an artsy person. Bria’s need to escape is something everyone feels, and something that traveling can quickly fix, even if it’s just for a while. I feel you, Bria. I really do.

Also: the romance. This is another one of those slow burn romances that just makes my toes curl with delight. :) While the build up to the romance didn’t really span months like how it was in Flat-Out Love, it was still believable with all the time that Rowan and Bria spent together. I loved how they danced around one another, how their conversations can go from disliking each other to having a mutual understanding that led them to protect one another from people who do not understand them. There wasn’t too much drama in how their relationship was built up, and I liked how it all ended, especially where it all ended. Wanderlove at its finest. :)

Finally, the setting. I think it helps that the author is also a backpacker, so the experiences and the places that the characters visited felt very real. I have to admit that Central America was never in my bucket list. After reading this book, though, I also wanted to pack my bags and go see the places they saw. Okay fine, I don’t think I’ll go backpack like they did anytime soon, but I so want to go where they went. Someday, someday. I’ll go there. Maybe after I hit South America next year ((World Youth Day 2013 is in Rio de Janiero — wohoo!)).

If you’re ever one who’s loved traveling, or one who’s wished to travel but never got to, I recommend Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard to you. I hope this book fills you with the same kind of love as Bria found and Rowan had, and that somehow, it also helps you find the place(s) in the world that would stick in your heart. :) You could find this book or similar titles by Kristen Hubbard with Amazon Coupons.

I leave you with this quote:

You got to find your own places. The places you get, girl, the ones that stick in your heart. And if you’re lucky, you find people to share them with.

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine
Makeshift Bookmark