Look, you guys, here’s the truth: I read. A lot.
You know that; it says it in my header. But I read so much I have read enough books that I’m honestly probably set for reviews until mid-March. I’ve got a backlog, yo.
But I finished a book on Sunday morning that was SO GOOD I CANNOT WAIT A DAY LONGER TO TELL YOU ABOUT IT.
My heart is still racing thinking about it. Okay, here we go…
By Kirsten Hubbard
March 13, 2012
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 352 pages
Source: Publisher, via 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.
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.
— Amazon.com description
I love road trip books. They are a literal journey, yes, but they also explore a character’s journey in discovering something new about themselves. It’s a lovely and thrilling structure that allows you to explore alongside the characters and watch how their discoveries slowly change them.
But after reading Wanderlove, I feel like I’ve found something even better — travelogue books.
It’s a road trip amplified when Bria sets off from her tour group in Guatemala and joins a pair of backpackers as they explore the road less traveled. As Bria lets go of her inhibitions, stumbles and soars, I felt like I was there with her — 50-pound backpack on my back, bugs in my sheets, sand in my toes — every step of the way.
And YES, that’s exactly what a great book should do. By the end of Wanderlove, Bria was a different person and I, too, felt changed.
Watching how Bria sheds her sadness and fears, bit by bit, is INSPIRING. It makes me want to explore, to be in the moment, to see the world through new eyes. Bria loses her camera along the way and documents her story through beautiful drawings that are included in the book. It’s a thrilling reminder that journeys should not be spent behind the lens of the camera — they should be experiences with open eyes, in the moment.
It’s a beautiful book with a beautiful lesson.
And, oh yeah, there’s her travel companion, Rowan. My heart is still pounding. I leave it at that.
I could keep going on and on, like about how after we saw Kirsten Hubbard at BEA last year we could not stop talking about how gorgeous she is and how her description of how Bria feels when she sees Starling is exactly how I felt when I saw her (like how is she so effortlessly cool? and how do I get to be like that?) and how the cover is just a random girl but after you read the book you’ll look back on it and be like “Oh my gosh that girl IS Bria” and on and on and on so let’s end it here with the most important thing…