When reviews started popping up last year for Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard I instantly added it to my TBR. I love travel books of any sort and this one looked to be a good one. It is a fairly typical YA contemporary romance, but made even better by the setting and vivid details.
It all begins with a stupid question:
Are you a Global Vagabond?
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.
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.
Bria is a girl who is running away from a lot of things, her parents, college, memories of her jerk ex-boyfriend, but mostly she is running from herself. Or more exactly what she allowed herself to become. Enter cool people to change her life forever. It's a fairly familiar story. Hubbard writes it convincingly well. Bria's journey is a believable one. She starts out wanting to break the rules a little, but is afraid too. She takes small steps in the direction she thinks she wants to go, and then realizes she is still moving according to other people's wishes instead of her own. I appreciated how real her journey seemed and how she got to where she was in the end. Rowan is an interesting foil for Bria. He did the bad boy thing, paid some consequences for it, and is trying to form a new life and plan. He and Bria have a lot in common and also much to learn from each other. I liked the way their relationship developed slowly and naturally through the course of the book.
The true main character of the book is Central America though. The setting far outshines everything else the story has to offer. Hubbard is a travel writer, an expert in the countries she is talking about here and that shows. I enjoyed reading about the backpacking experience (even if it is something I can't say I would ever want to do) and the beautiful places they go. Bria is an artist and the book is peppered with wonderful sketches of things Bria sees. The descriptions are so real that I could feel like I was right there with the characters.
One concern I have is that there are a couple of sentences thrown into the narrative that lead me to believe there were far more dire things going on in Bria's relationship with Toby than she ever fully admitted to or came to terms with.
It is a fun read, perfect for a hot humid summer day. If you enjoy contemporary YA romance or travel stories this is a good one to pick up.