Book review: Live vicariously in ‘Wanderlove’

September 15, 2013 

  • ‘WANDERLOVE’ by Kristen Hubbard; Ember ($9.99)

Publisher’s summary: In a quest for independence, her neglected art and no-strings-attached hookups, 18-year-old Bria Sandoval 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 ditches her group and joins 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. 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.

My take: Kristen Hubbard is one of the most talented and brilliant writers of YA contemporary I’ve come across; her writing is spellbinding. The voice she gives to Bria is funny, snarky and instantly likable. She didn’t have to go into long descriptions or heavy scenes showing the reader what a character was like. In one line I would know EXACTLY what kind of person a character was.

I was with Bria every moment of her journey and wanted to be with her, backpacking through Central America alongside Starling and Rowan. The ending is complete and fits the character and story perfectly. I felt Bria’s anxiousness and disappointment. I felt her reluctance and joy. I smiled and sighed with contentment. I have never been more “there,” both mentally and emotionally in any book than I was in that one scene.

“Wanderlove” is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about a girl who’s lost so much of herself in a boy who didn’t deserve it that she can’t find who she was anymore. It takes a journey through Central America with a complete stranger for Bria to remember who she is and what she loves, and to learn to trust again.

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