Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Published March 13, 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 338 pages
Borrowed from library

After a rough breakup with her boyfriend Toby, 18 year old Bria Sandoval decides to pack everything and leave for a trip to Central America the summer before college. She finds a tour group called the Global Vagabonds that seems the perfect way for her to escape and soak up the culture of Guatemala but what she gets is rather disappointing. The trip she signed up for is a highly structured one with no freedom to wander and to make things more disappointing, she's with a group of middle-aged people, not the fun looking twenty year olds the website promised. On a whim though, Bria meets backpackers Rowan and his sister Starling and they invite her to ditch her tour group and come along with them. And as they weave through jungles and temples and ruins, Bria slowly learns what it truly means to be independent. (Also there's love and lots of fun travelling scenery!) 

When I wrote my review for Wanderlove after my first read of it back in 2013, I didn't mean to be prophetic when I said:
"Though I'm certainly no psychic, I can almost guarantee you that this book will be picked up once again in the future."
But here we are and here I am, writing a review for Wanderlove which I just reread. And it was every bit as delightful as I remembered and MORE.

You know how there are good books that are good because the writing is strong, the characters are well-developed, the storyline's tight? And then there are other books that are good that may not be as technically strong but touch you and your life in a way that you just can't ignore. Those books are the ones with stories and characters that somehow jump off the page and burrow their way into your heart and forge a true connection with you.

That was Wanderlove for me. Not since maybe Anne of Green Gables which I read in fourth grade has a book a touched me in this way. Somehow, reading it this time around, it just got me thinking about stuff such as THE BEAUTY OF LIFE and SECOND CHANCES and PURSUING ART and TRAVEL and LOVE and BOYS and SAVORING THE HERE AND NOW. Some things that weren't even related to the story but as I was reading about Bria and her adventures in Central America, my mind just kept on branching off into all these different topics and thoughts.

Wanderlove, to me, is a lot more than a YA contemporary novel about a girl who finds love whilst gallivanting around Central America. It's a book that truly opened my eyes about things that have been on my mind for a long while and the effect that it had on me just touches me so deeply I DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO EXPRESS IT. It's been roughly two years since I read this book for the first time and in those two years, monumental shifts have occurred in my life. The obvious one is that I am now in high school, not worrying about which high school to go to, and I'm a junior. Two years away from going off to college. And then of course there are those changes that are less obvious because they aren't visible - changes that occur within you. So after these two years, I've come to appreciate Wanderlove in a new light.

When I was 13, it was about the allure of travelling and having the freedom to backpack around Central America and see all these amazing sights. Now, at 15, it's about a lot more than that. It's about making decisions and finding your independence and maybe it's because I've been going through a slight existential crisis anyway of WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE, I FEEL SO LOST, AM I JUST GOING TO WASTE AWAY WITHOUT HAVING DONE ANYTHING USEFUL OR INFLUENTIAL WITH MY LIFE, etc etc, but Wanderlove came at the exact right time. I mean, I always knew I was going to reread it one day because I loved the travel aspect of it but I didn't know that when I did reread it, I would come to love so much more about it than all the gorgeous descriptions of Guatemala and Belize.

In the book, Bria's kinda having an existential crisis herself although she's sorta running away from it by going off to Central America. She's just gotten through a rough breakup with her boyfriend, she no longer finds joy in her art, she didn't apply to the art school she got into and she feels totally disconnected from her parents and her friends. It's not a situation that I'm in but I couldn't help the entire time reading the book just being like YES I needed to read these words.

And so this time around, I loved this book even more for acting kinda like a wise friend doling out some useful insight and advice. But of course there were also things that I enjoyed and appreciated even from the first read: the travel aspect of it, how likeable Bria and Starling and Rowan were, how natural the progression of Bria and Rowan's relationship was and how much cooler the illustrations made the book. It's just that this time, being a few years older, there were more things I found to appreciate about this book.

I know this wasn't like one of my typical reviews but to be quite honest, I was completely at a loss for words after I read this book. I knew I wanted to write a review to share my experience but I just didn't know at all how it would come together. So I know I didn't spend a lot of time talking about the things I usually touch upon like characters and the story and the writing but you'll just have to trust me on this that those were all done so so well. And now just because I couldn't resist highlighting all the quotable sentences in this book on my eBook, here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:

"And I want nothing more in the entire universe than to dive headfirst into the kaleidoscope of colours, to let them whirl around me until I become a fractal of light."
"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."
 "I've come to realize that sometimes, what you love the most is what you have to fight the hardest to keep."
"I've come to realize it really doesn't need to be all or nothing." 

One of my favourite YA books now of all time. This book has great writing, great characters and a great storyline which made it a joy to read but above all, it opened my mind and had me thinking hard about some things that have been swirling around for a while. It offered the same type of wisdom and comfort a good friend might and so I love this book just for the way it affected me. But honestly, even if it might not touch you in the same way, I have no doubt in my mind that it'll still be well worth a read for you, if you haven't read it yet. There is just so much good in this book. (And just fyi, I would definitely include the Badge of Honour for this book if I wasn't cringing over how ugly it is and thinking of ways to revamp it.)

people who like to travel and read about foreign places. If you're looking for a very strong YA contemporary, you should check this out.


Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner says: "If you love a realistic YA read that is a fun, light not lacking in substance, romantical tension that is done right and a romp across some of the most amazing places in the world…then you might want to bump this one up now!"

Steph @ Cuddlebuggery gives it 5 stars: "This book was so amazing, so deep, so beautiful and I’m very happy I stepped outside of my comfort box to read it."

Renae @ Respiring Thoughts gives it 3 stars: "Altogether, Wanderlove had a teensy bit too much cheese for my taste, but it was still a solid read in spite of its fluffy outer coating."

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