Read: August 16-17, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: Library Book
Category: Mature YA/New Adult (NA=high school graduate/college age)
In Wanderlove we meet Bria Sandoval, a recent high school graduate who wants to get away from her life (including an ex-boyfriend and the looming future of college), rediscover her love for art, and do something independent and exciting for once. She signs up for a guided tour of Central America, which is supposed to be filled with beautiful people her age. But she actually ends up in a group filled with middle-aged tourists. Not exactly what she's expecting.
While regretting her choice for global adventure, Bria meets Rowan, an experienced backpacker and dive instructor, and his humanitarian sister Starling. Bria then makes the possibly crazy decision to ditch her group to travel with them.
Although Bria and Rowan seem very different at first, they're both seeking a way to escape their past.
Is it possible to move forward without ever looking back?
How much can you trust another person when they won't share their past?
And can Bria re-discover part of herself that she thought she'd lost?
I love when a book makes me feel things. When it draws out my emotions and memories. Wanderlove was that book for me. I can't remember when a book last made me feel such longing for a different time in my life. To be young and free and traveling. To be 18 again and able to pick up and go anywhere. This book made me remember when all these things were true for me. I LOVE when I'm able to connect to a book on such a personal level.
Because Wanderlove brought it out of me, I'm going to do some reminiscing about my own traveling experience (you can skip ahead if this bores you). I actually was in Belize the summer after high school - when I was 18. Although the circumstances that brought me there were a bit different than Bria's. I went to Central America as part of a missions trip to help build a school. My trip was not quite the unfettered experience that Bria and Rowan's was. But my volunteer experience enable me to get to know the community a bit. I also spent a few nights in the rainforest and saw some Mayan ruins. Next time, I'll go diving.
Me in Belize on top of a Mayan ruin. Notice the splint on my finger. I fractured it on a ceiling fan during the trip and got to experience the Belizean medical system.
Later in college, I studied in Italy and did some independent travel (with friends) - staying in hostels and navigating foreign transportation systems, while seeing some amazing sites. Although, I was a history major, I ended up in a program with a lot of art students. I also took an art history class while there, which included a heavy sketching portion. I am nowhere near the artist that Bria is (and have done little to no drawing since that time), but I have very strong memories of sitting in a crowded piazza and sketching the scene before me. And I still have a very strong association with drawing and foreign travel.
Finally, my father is a dive instructor, and my entire family is certified. I loved reading about Rowan's excitement about diving, and I could relate to what he feels when he's under water - the feeling of being in a different dimension, the unique creatures that you see (even the cold waters of New England have cool things to explore) and the silence.
I think one reason I was able to connect with this book so well is because, in every detail of Wanderlove it is clear that Kirsten Hubbard is a Traveler. That she Knows the backpacking culture of Central America. I loved the personal touch of Bria's inner thoughts, observations and drawings that made her trip seem real. I could picture the people that Bria meets, from their wearable clothing, accessories, and hairstyles to the size of the backpacks they carry. And each place she described felt real. Visited.
I could also relate to Bria. Wanting to see the world and get out of her life for a while, but not knowing how. To having been told travel horror stories and trying to be adventurous while avoiding dangerous insects and people. I try to blend in wherever I travel, with moderate success (depends a lot on where I travel - and what language they speak). So I cringed at the image of a tour group staring at maps. And I can relate to Bria wanting to fit in with the backpacking crowd. But I’m not the Traveler that Rowan and Starling are, and there was something fascinating about them. Although, I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to go off on my own with them, especially when I was 18.
At times I felt like the author pulled thoughts directly out of my head while I was reading this book. I loved the scene in which Rowan talks about thinking about the people who live their entire lives in the places he visits. That is something I always try to do when traveling. What would it be like to grow up here? To live and work in this place? I also love Bria’s comment back. About how even though her problems pale in comparison to those of a third world country, they’re HER problems and she shouldn’t have to feel less of a person for feeling them. I was right there in that discussion between them. I love when that happens.
A beautiful slow building romance develops through this story. It is my favorite kind to watch. I love seeing two characters that seem nothing alike on the surface find their way to each other, discovering along the way that they aren't so different after all. Because of their differing life experiences, Rowan and Bria have insight to offer each other, challenge the way the other thinks, and end up working as a couple. I hope they're happy together, each doing what they love.
However, my one complaint in this book also has to do with the love story. I felt like it fell in the trap of almost all contemporary romances. You know, near the end when one of the characters does something stupid or there is a misunderstanding, and it causes chaos. I realize this is a small thing. But it is such a used plot line that I inherently cringe when I get to it, and am constantly looking for something different to create tension and a climax in the story. I realize that I may be the only person bothered by this, and really it is a marvelous story besides.
I LOVE LOVE Wanderlove and it's made me more seriously start planning where I want to travel next.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Love Triangle Factor: Mild