W is for WANDERLOVE

 

Today’s Bookanista recommendation: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

 

From GoodreadsIt 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. 

I’m a sucker for beautifully written contemporary YA, especially when the story is set somewhere warm and beachy, and ESPECIALLY when there’s a slow-burn (read: realistic) romance involved. In these ways, Wanderlove is a triple threat. Kirsten Hubbard’s sophomore novel is simply lovely. Fully realized, perfectly imperfect characters. A setting that will give you a severe case of wanderlust. A hot, angsty, incredibly literate boy with a dragon tattoo(!). Wanderlove immersed me in its story, in its world. It made me feel like I was on vacation, and because of that, it was utterly unputdownable.

Bria is an every-girl protagonist in the very best way. She reminds me of ME when I graduated from high school, and that put me immediately on her side. Bria spends much of Wanderlove second-guessing decisions, suffering from crippling self-awareness, and yearning to be something more, something different. With help from Rowan, Bria gradually becomes more comfortable in her skin (and in her past mistakes), and she grows into a remarkable person, one I want to know. Kirsten Hubbard illustrates (literally) Bria’s transformation by sprinkling gorgeous drawings throughout the text. They’re an added bonus to an already beautiful book that I highly anticipated as I read.

In case you missed it, I discussed Wanderlove‘s glorious setting for March’s YA Book Club post… You should totally check it out! And, when you’re done with that, please please PLEASE pick up a copy of Wanderlove. I suspect you’ll adore it as much as I do!

Check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to today:

Elana Johnson more than “likes” BEING FRIENDS WITH BOYS

Nikki Katz is crazy about CREWEL

Stasia Ward Kehoe  adores BREAKING BEAUTIFUL

Tracy Banghart  takes a shine to A MILLION SUNS

Jessica Love is wowed by WELCOME CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE

Debra Driza marvels at MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH – with giveaway

Tell me: What’s your favorite travel-inspired novel?

YA Book Club: WANDERLOVE


{YA Book Club is the brainchild of writer/blogger Tracey Neithercott.
For guidelines and additional info, click the image above.}

February’s YA Book Club selection is Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

From GoodreadsIt 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.

Tracey provided some structure for this month’s book club post in the form of a few setting-related questions, which I think is an excellent idea. I’m planning a Bookanista recommendation for Wanderlove in a few weeks, so I’m going to save my official review (Spoiler: I kind of loved it!), and focus on the talking points below:

1. How did setting play a part in the story?

While Wanderlove‘s characters are fantastic and its writing is beautiful, it is, at its essence, a story about finding one’s self after high school — pretty basic YA material. What makes it exceptional is its unique setting, one very few people could have captured as stunningly as Kirsten Hubbard (she is, according to her bio, a bit of a  Global Vagabond herself).

Kirsten used her story’s setting to challenge its characters, especially Bria. The ocean, the language barriers, the currency differences, the strange foods and customs, the dangers of traveling alone in a foreign country — it all threw Bria for a loop, forcing her to take a good hard look at herself and attitude. Had Wanderlove been set in, say… a midwest suburb… I doubt its underlying themes of independent exploration, self-discovery, and autonomy would have been illustrated as effectively as they are in lush and vivid Central American.

2. Could this story have been told in a different setting and still been the same?

Certainly not the same, but I think the story could have been set in any tropical, slow-developing, mostly-foreign-language-speaking area of the world. Bria needed to feel totally displaced and occasionally helpless, a fish out of water, to take control of her life and accountability for her decisions, both past and present. I loved the richness of the Central America setting, though. It definitely gave me a case of wanderlust!

3. What tips did you pick up from Kirsten Hubbard when it comes to setting?

Setting can be — should be! — a character in and of itself. I’ve heard this advice many times, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it executed as skillfully as Kirsten does in Wanderlove.  She used setting not only as a vibrant backdrop, but as a tool to express her story’s themes. Plus, Kirsten’s descriptions are rich and imaginative, and she makes use of all five sense when discussing the countries mentioned in the story. She made me feel like I was backpacking with Bria and Rowan, eating mango, lounging in a hammock, gazing at a million sparkling stars, which made Wanderlove unputdownable. I didn’t want my vacation to end!

4. Did you feel the use of illustrations enhanced the story?

I did! I loved the illustrations, and thought they added a unique layer to the story, and to the setting. It was a treat to see — not just read about — what Bria saw during her trip, especially since drawing is such a huge part of her identity. The illustrations also helped demonstrate her character arc. Her drawings grew with her, and as the story progressed, I started to look forward to them with the same enthusiasm with which I anticipated the progression of Bria’s relationship with Rowan. Incidentally, I predicted what the last illustration of the story would be, but I did NOT allow myself to page ahead for a peek. I wanted to wait it out with the characters. 🙂

Tell me: Have you read Wanderlove? What were your thoughts on its unique setting?

If you haven’t read it, will you?