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. (from Amazon)
I have a deep fondness for books that force teenagers to travel to places they might not have wanted to go to and that, in turn, force them to grow up into better people than they were at the beginning of the book/journey. This is why I had such high hopes for 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and why I had such high hopes for Wanderlove! Luckily Wanderlove does what I wanted 13 Little Blue Envelopes to do, and it does is in a completely amazing way that, if I had a physical copy of this book, would make me cuddle it to my chest for about a week. That’s how happy this book makes me.
First off: Bria. I love her! She’s a great protagonist, with enough flaws that she comes off as completely human instead of a sock puppet or something. I loved how she went from a tourist to a traveler, and how that changed helped her deal with the things that she was running away from in the first place. The other characters are great, too, though I think Bria’s friends (who stayed at home) were a bit flat compared to almost everyone else. I think that might have been because they only interact with Bria in flashback scenes, as opposed to, say, Starling, who interacts with Bria in the present.
Secondly: The location of Wanderlove is fantastic– and, I think, kind of unusual for YA travel fiction (which usually seems to take place in Europe). I’ve been interested in Central America as a potential travel destination for a while, mainly because of Guatemala and all the interesting ruins peppered throughout the area as a whole. Wanderlove has only made me even more interested in going there myself; the descriptions of the various places Bria goes to are vivid without going over-the-top, and reading them made my wanderlust (or wanderlove!) go from somewhere around a 6 to up past 11.
Besides that, though, the non-travel parts of the story are just as good. I really like romances where each partner goes through a positive change through help of the other person, especially when it’s not just a straight shot from “bad” to “good.” There’s bumps. There’s miscommunication. And then there’s explaining and patching things up and working through things in a really positive way! Plus, I’m always going to be a fan of coming-of-age novels and Wanderlove is no exception.
So, basically: if you like contemporary YA books, or books with travel in them, or even just great romances: you’ll love Wanderlove. It’s SO GOOD. SO. GOOD.
Read: January 29, 2012