Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard: Book Review

WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard Book Review
Publication Date: March 13th 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Book Summary: 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.

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard Book Review Overview:

  • Wonderfully written
  • WANDERLOVE was more than a typical coming-of-age novel
  • Hubbard takes her audience backpacking with Bria

Picture this: the summer before starting college, 18-year-old Bria sets off to do something completely out of character. She decides to forgo a guided tour of Central America and sets off with two backpackers, Starling and Rowan. Thanks to her escapades with her new friends, Bria’s short stay in Central America turns into one that will change her life.

To say that Bria Sandoval ran away from her problems would be an understatement – she literally fled the country. WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard is more than a cliche coming-of-age novel; it’s a novel about a girl trying, failing, and overcoming her past. Bria’s a talented artist from Southern California who always carries a sketchbook filled to the brim of the beauty of life with her. She spends months preparing a portfolio in hopes of getting accepted into the Southern California Art Academy’s fast-track program. However, she does this with her boyfriend, Toby, which causes all sorts of problems.

As a Global Vagabond drop-out, Bria hops from one hostel to another, guided by Starling and her mysterious half-brother, Rowan. They show Bria what it’s truly like to backpack around a country by traveling in chicken trucks, exploring Mayan villages, and staying on Belizean islands. Unfortunately, these things are not enough for Bria to escape her past. On the contrary, after Starling leaves her to “babysit” Rowan, Bria is forced to analyze everything in her life that has brought her to Central America. To make matters worse, Bria discovers how difficult it is to fight her attraction to Rowan.

As the half-sister of a “reformed” bad-boy, Starling requests Bria to babysit Rowan during Lobsterfest while she leaves to do humanitarian work. Lobsterfest is a giant party on an island; a scene that Rowan would prefer to avoid. It is their stay here that forces both Rowan and Bria to not only confront what they’ve been trying to avoid all along: their feelings for each other and their pasts.

In WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard, Bria’s reasons for not attending art school are slowly revealed in each chapter. Hubbard not only provides her readers with snippets of Bria’s past – which includes her epic breakup with Toby – but also beautiful sketches that correspond with events in the novel’s chapters.

I wish I could do this novel justice! Hubbard does an amazing job in describing Bria’s personal feelings in WANDERLOVE. The character development was beautiful; as was the interaction between Bria and Rowan. Their relationship wasn’t rushed; rather, it faltered and grew like a good relationship should. Moreover, all of the supporting characters were well-written and funny. Lastly, I’m 100% sure I’ve been bitten by the backpacker bug thanks to WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard. Brava, Ms. Hubbard, for writing such an engaging novel!

I recommend WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard to anyone looking for a good trip and a compelling contemporary story.

Other Book Reviews:
Ficticious Delicious
Rather Be Reading
YA Librarian Tales

About the Author

Kristin HubbardA travel writer and young adult author, Kirsten Hubbard has hiked ancient ruins in Cambodia, dived with wild dolphins in Belize (one totally looked her in the eye), slept in a Slovenian jail cell, and navigated the Wyoming badlands (without a compass) in search of transcendent backdrops for her novels. She lives in San Diego, California.

Her YA debut, LIKE MANDARIN, was published by Delacorte/Random House on March 8th, 2011. Her second book, WANDERLOVE, will be published on March 13th, 2012.

Find the Author

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  1. I think that’s what struck me the most. The level of emotion in the writing, in Bria. I just love it when books take you to places inside a character that are as intriguing, sometimes more so, than they actual places they visit in the world.


    1. Hi Asher! I agree – I think Bria (particularly her thoughts and her character development) was really what drew me into WANDERLOVE. Thank you for your thoughtful comment :)

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