ARC Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

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 to 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.

Thank you to Netgalley for the eARC.

You know when you find a book that just sounds so perfect for you? But then you're hesitant to read, because it just has such a fantastic premise and what if it doesn't live up to your expectations? Then it turns out that you had nothing to worry about... because not only did the book live up to your expectations, but it exceeded them? That's how it felt when I finished Wanderlove. It had everything I love about a book--a main character that I can relate to, a swoon-worthy boy, traveling--and then even more. This book was just so much fun to read. I seriously couldn't put it down.

First off, what drew me to this novel in the first place was the setting. I can't wait to get out and travel. So I automatically am partial to buts set in foreign countries. But even then, this book was different than most. Think backpacking all over Central America. This book takes the reader to so many different locations, everywhere from Guatemala to Belize. And because the author, Kirsten Hubbard, was a travel writer and has been to all the locations mentioned throughout the novel, she's able to capture the setting so vividly. I felt as though I was thrown into a Central American adventure while I was reading this book. It was so much fun and I literally couldn't stop reading.

Bria was such a great main character. I loved her voice and I loved how I was able to really get inside her head. Part of it was just that I could really relate to her. Sometimes I want to hop on a plane and see the world and just escape everything too. I think everyone gets those feelings once in a while. Except Bria actually acts on them, setting herself up for an awesome journey. And I could see Bria's transformation as the novel progressed. She started out so naive, and I don't think she was fully aware of what she was signing up for. She over packed and just didn't know what she was doing. By the end of the novel, Bria is a backpacker. And the emotional journey that followed this book was fantastic too. Bria was broken, devastated. She was willing to give up everything she loved over a breakup. To see her gain strength as the novel progressed and just develop into an opinionated kick-ass main character was so great to read. Bria is, in essence, my favorite kind of main character. (And I think the name Bria is so pretty.) 

And then there's Rowan. Now, it's no secret that I love a bad boy. But a bad boy who's trying to be good? That might be even hotter. In any case, it so worked with Rowan. He's the ultimate backpacker...traveling from location to location, to wherever his next dive job is. He got into trouble with drugs in the past, but he wants to change. And God, he's so adorable. He had his jerk moments, but I really enjoyed him and his relationship with Bria. I loved the back and forth with them, how neither of them would take each others crap. And the best part is that Bria and Rowan were friends... that despite being put in a typically unrealistic situation, the development of their relationship was so realistic and cute and gah sexual tension! Eek, I loved it.

Like I said, I do have to admit that the predicament was just a tad bit unrealistic. I mean, I would never go off with two strangers in a strange and dangerous part of the world. My mother would be like HAVE I TAUGHT YOU NOTHING? Bria was trying to be all tough and bad-ass, and luckily it worked out in her favor. Honestly, I loved all the characters and just the whole story way too much to even care about the realisicness of the plot. Starling, Rowan's half-sister, was awesome. I loved meeting the random locals, as well as digging into Bria's weird relationship with her parents. The character development and relationships were all so complex and layered.

An added bonus to Wanderlove was the artwork included all throughout. Sketches were scattered and dispersed throughout the novel, tying in with Bria being an artist. But what's even cooler is that Kirsten Hubbard drew these pictures as well. Not only can she write, but she can draw! I'm so jealous.

Wanderlove is an adventure that you will not be able to put down. I absolutely loved it.