I think the thing that makes Wanderlove such a great book is that it appeals to almost everyone. Most people like to travel. Most people have, at some stage in their life, gone through an internal crisis, where they have been uncertain of their future and which path they should take. Most people love the idea of a journey of self discovery. Most people wish they could have an adventure, preferably in an exotic location and with an attractive tour guide. And if most people don't like these things, that's fine, cause I do.
Kirsten Hubbard has created the perfect travel novel for young adults, and for all readers really. Bria is a young woman who is left reeling after her break-up with her boyfriend Toby and subsequent inability to find inspiration and comfort in her art anymore. Getting away seems like the perfect idea. Haven't we all wanted to just pack up and leave our problems behind, if only for a little while? Despite a bumpy start (the tour group Bria signed up for is populated by the over 55 crowd) she finds her way when she meets bohemian backpackers Starling and Rowan.
Hubbard describes the backpacker way of life to a T - not that I am an expert on all things backpacking - but it all felt real, from the lack of running water and creepy bugs, to the risks of traveling alone in a foreign country. It is all the little elements and nuances that make this an authentic piece of travel fiction, written by someone who, evidently, has travelled to these places.
Wanderlove would greatly appeal to people who love romance. Not that insta-love stuff, but the slow build of a new relationship. Filled with awkward stilted moments, confusion, and arguments as two people find their footing around each other. I loved the will-they-won't-they aspect of Bria and Rowan's relationship, and that their friendship wasn't rushed and unrealistic.
The reader is not only taken on a journey through South America in Wanderlove but also on a journey of Bria's self discovery. There is a strong character development arc in this novel that is intimately weaved through Bria's travels and experiences. It is refreshing to read how much the trip changed Bria by the end of the book. I couldn't finish this review without mentioning the illustrations that are littered throughout Wanderlove. These beautiful drawings, which give us glimpses into Bria's sketchbook, add so much to the story.
Wanderlove is so many things. An inspirational story about healing and finding oneself. A physical and emotional journey through a foreign land. A beautifully written and illustrated novel with heart.