Thursday, December 15, 2011

[Early Review] Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Title: Wanderlove {goodreads}
Authors: Kirsten Hubbard
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 13/03/2012
Publisher: Random House (Delacorte Press)
RRP: $17.99
Source: Netgalley (Grab it while you can!)
Precautions: PG (15+) - Moderate swearing, mild romantic scenes, skinny dipping, drugs and drinking
Pages: 352
My Rating:

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.
My thoughts: 

For the record, I NEVER post such early reviews, but not to worry, I'll re-link to this review, along with other Wanderlove-related stuff, I'm sure, 1 month before the release date, and then as it releases and around it thereafter. Wanderlove in a word: refreshing.

My Synopsis:

WANDERLOVE starts off with ex-artgirl Bria, who is currently in her break between high school and university/college, recently broke up with her intense artsy boyfriend Toby, and now ready to be someone different. When her two best friends bail on their trip, she takes it upon herself to screw it all and go anyway. But, the travel package that drew her to Central America turns out to be a dud - her group consists of only old or dull people, which means absolutely no hookups.

Sick of the routine and lack of adventure, Bria is taken under the wings of backpackers Starling and Rowan. Wanting more than anything to fit in with the backpacker lifestyle, she loses herself along the way. Because of the theft of her handbag, along with her camera, the only way she'll be able to capture the rugged beauty of her surroundings is if she picks up her pencil and starts to draw again. Rowan and Starling take her to places far off the beaten track, and she finds herself - the art school girl she's always wanted to be - along the way, and maybe, she thinks, it's not too late to return to how she was before Toby.

Okay, guys, I just read this amazing book. It's called WANDERLOVE, and if you're into travel - heck, even if you're not into travel - this is THE 2012 YA book for you. Aside from the pure escapism that this book provides so easily, Hubbard has created characters that stick, with real problems that may not always be relatable, but will encourage the reader's empathy all the same.

It's so clear to see how much Hubbard loves to travel, and that she didn't just research Central America - she LIVED Central America. I can just imagine the sparks that flew when she wrote this book, so immersed in her love for backpacking and getting lost in a whole new world; which probably attributed to why I enjoyed this ten million times more than I did LIKE MANDARIN (Hubbard's debut). I could FEEL not only Bria, the main character, but also the author, because of the depth of detail and the drawings - oh, guys, the DRAWINGS . . . . Easily one of the most beautiful books I've read all year.
"The water looks cool and blue, like an electric-raspberry popsicle. I want in." (Bria, p. 149)

At the beginning of the book, Bria is naive and still clinging onto the past. She's a bit snappy and immature, but she's been through a lot. We just don't know much about her problems. Along the way, as she opens up, both in her thoughts and out loud, we are aware of the reasons why she has a lack of trust in people. By the end, she's a completely different person - she braves the unknown, in more ways than one! Some of her choices weren't the smartest, but I did like Bria a lot, and I could relate to her. I also LOVE that Bria is 18 - there needs to be more YA protagonists around the 18-23 bracket!

Starling and Rowan, and the other backpackers and people we meet along the way, FELT. LIKE. REAL. PEOPLE. And I bet anything that Hubbard actually did base some of these characters on people she'd met during her travels. Really though, I love when characters stop feeling like characters, and more like people who you could believe exist. It also helps that the drawings are spot on with how I imagined them in my head.
"It's built over the water, which I can hear sloshing beneath my feet." (Bria, p. 200); source
The problems that Bria faces, revolves around art - something that she loved more than anything, but was turned into something ugly because of those around her. Her future, her parents, her relationship with Toby. They were all addressed because of what happened to her art. Let me just say I adore main protagonists who actually have passions and dreams, and who aren't just living it out for their dream guy, or a better life.

There IS a relationship that sparks during Bria's journey. Really, it would've felt just as sweet if it remained a friendship, but the extra oomph that the relationship provided really kicked up the dramatic side of things. Bria deals with the confusion that comes with not knowing whether it's serious or not, and what's going to happen if she lets herself fall for the backpacker guy she ran into at the airport. At first I didn't like Rowan that much, because of his easy confidence and way of speech. He came off as a bit cocky and high-and-mighty. But we also get to know him along the way; I warmed up to him quickly. I enjoyed the gradual progression as the two move from walking around eggshells, to *groan* cracking those eggshells and dancing around.
"Or we could go to the Tikal ruins, just over the border in Guatemala. You can stay at a budget hotel in the park, then wake up before dawn and climb to the top of the highest temple to watch the sun rise over the jungle. You'll swear you can see the whole wide world." (Rowan, p. 226)

Also, the cover and title. Both meaningful and only help to escalate the sophistication and intensity that this book delivers so effortlessly.

In short...

WANDERLOVE is beautiful. WANDERLOVE is a budget vacation/adventure you will never want to forget. If you are only going to read one 2012 YA contemporary release, make it this one. Beautifully rendered and picturesque, Hubbard's writing and drawings and characters will have you turning page after page, until you're done and you'll want to read it all over again. This book feels like a splash of cold water on a blazing hot day; a warm hug when you're cold.

(Also, this was one of my favourite reviews to write - it's been ages since I've felt so comfortable just blurting it all out there, and the words just came so easily. Huh, I just broke my review writing slump.)


Bria, on guys:
""Some of my old sketchbooks--the ones I stashed under my bed right around the time art school acceptance letters arrived--held drawings of Bria's Dream Guy. He wore tiny black glasses and Converse shoes, with that legendary paintbrush tucked behind his ear. Then there was his archnemesis, the Bad Guy. In a series of two-dimensional encounters, Bria's Dream Guy rescued her from the Bad Guy--via surfboard, hang glider, and white stallion--paintbrush moonlighting as a sword.
    Back then, I thought Mother Nature split the good guys from the bad with a thick black line.
    But the thing is, in real life, they're often the same guy. (p. 47)

Rowan, on goodbyes:
""They're a drag. I mean, seriously--they just drag out painful moments."
    I shrug, still feeling all sorts of unpleasant. "I suppose."
    "Think about it. Think about your last big goodbye. Both people are searching for the right thing to say, and both are uncomfortable because there is no right thing to say. Best to just leave and be done with it. Shut the book as quickly as possible."
    I try not to think of how long I dragged out my breakup with Toby. Isn't that what a breakup is? A painfully protracted goodbye? At least, it was in my case. "You make it sound easy."
    "It's worked for me so far." (pp. 106-107)


* cheapest Australian e-store price


Fishpond * | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile


All links from Booko, because I'm too lazy to search each individual store anymore.


I don't normally include an extras section, but there's just so much extra about the book!

First off, here's the full cover: CLICK HERE!

Wanderlove bookmarks
: couple your beautiful pre-order (presumptuous? me?) of this gem with a bookmark!
If you're a blogger . . .  Kirsten will send you bookmarks - no matter where you are!
If you're a reader . . .  I'll be hosting a giveaway, as soon as I receive the bookmarks and know how many I can give out. I also have Like Mandarin bookmarks, so of course it will be a Kirsten Hubbard crazy swag giveaway. It will be international. :) Also, Kirsten will be holding personal giveways in future on her blog, so keep an eye out!

Kirsten Hubbard's awesomeness ~ just a couple snippets; you can raid her blog if you want more. ;)

Other WANDERLOVE reviews
Nice Girls Read Books: 5 stars {link}
Princess Bookie: 5 stars {link}
Holes in My Brain: 4.8 stars {link}
Inkcrush: 4 stars overall {link}
Writing from the Tub: 15/20, B {link}
Phoebe North: Recommended {link}
Check out my review of Like Mandarin, Kirsten's debut novel!

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: ---

* any images I didn't include the source for, were found using Google images. ;) I own none of them.

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