I’ve been curious about Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard ever since it first came out and I saw positive reviews popping up all over the blogosphere. I have no idea why I put off reading it though. I was able to borrow a copy from my good friend Celina and I decided to read it right after my Hong Kong trip because I still had a vacation hangover. I figured I’d enjoy reading a YA book that focuses on traveling while I was in that kind of mood – I was right.
Here’s the summary from Kirsten Hubbard’s website:
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 was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading Wanderlove. At the start of the novel, I was a bit annoyed at Bria because she’s never gone out of the country and she makes an impulsive decision to join a tour group, without even researching the details of the trip. I mean, how hard can it be to Google the destinations? But that was a passing thing because I quickly learned to like her as the story progressed. She has her own reasons for trying to move forward without looking back at the past. I’m all for budget flights and cheap accommodations when traveling but I don’t think I have what it takes to be a backpacker. So it was a lot of fun for me to read Bria’s adventures with backpacking experts Starling and Rowan. There are certain aspects of Latin America that reminded me of the Philippines – third world countries, beautiful beaches and diving sites – so I feel like that’s another thing that added to my enjoyment of the story. Here’s a nice little passage that highlights this (Rowan is the one speaking):
“What everyone forgets – even me – is the people who actually live here. In places like Central America, I mean. Southeast Asia. India. Africa. Millions, even billions, of people, who live out their whole lives in these places – the places so many people like us fear. Think about it: they ride chicken buses to work every day. Their clothes are always damp. Their whole lives, they never escape the dust and the heat. But they deal with all these discomforts. They have to.
So why can’t travelers? If we’ve got the means to get here, we owe it to the country we’re visiting not to treat it like an amusement park, sanitized for our comfort. It’s insulting to the people who live here. People just trying to have the best lives they can, with the hands they’ve been dealt.”
My clothes aren’t always damp but yes, it’s pretty humid over here. I wonder if there are backpackers all over the Philippines? I always see a lot of foreigners whenever I go to popular tourist destinations here but I have no idea if some of them are backpackers. Anyway, back to the story, Bria is an artist and there are several sketches (drawn by the author herself, I believe) included all throughout the story. Sample artwork from Kirsten Hubbard’s Goodreads review:
I’m a big fan of slow burn romance and Wanderlove definitely has that. Even though the book spans only a couple of weeks, I still felt like the romance took time to form. The characters really got to know each other before deciding that they want to pursue a relationship. I just wish the ending was a bit longer so I could have read more scenes between them. Even if I don’t think the male lead is my type of guy, how can you not swoon a little bit for someone who is an avid reader? Always squeezing in reading time in hammocks instead of partying like crazy with the rest of the secondary characters. If you’re a fan of that kind of romance or contemporary YA novels about traveling, then Wanderlove is the book for you. I’d love to read more novels like this so feel free to recommend similar titles.
Some underwater Coron pictures that seem appropriate for the book: