Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

In a pinch, Wanderlove was an excellent YA travel story that I would recommend to both lovers and haters of Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes. (They’re similar, but this is slightly more realistic and more well-written than Envelopes).

So Miss Waters is back in the UK, and because she’s rushing around and meeting relatives and being a busy person, she isn’t stuffed to post.

I am writing a novel, and this has given me quite a bit of perspective on my rather harsh novel-critiquing, because I realise how hard it is to write a novel–write A novel, not even a particularly good one. I mean, I can’t really be stuffed to go and generate a meme, but you can imagine the One Does Not Simply meme captioned with ‘write a novel’. And I have since developed a healthy respect for authors.

This ain’t saying that I’m going to go goo-goo eyed on the Twilight series right now, because I maintain that it is the bookish equivalent of junk food.

Maxine has gone to the US for summer school. I’m actually kind of jealous, since I imagine that peanut butter cups run rampant in America, and I love them so much it isn’t even funny.

So anyway, now that I’ve explained our absences, please expect everything to continue as normal when the northern hemisphere summer holidays are over and everyone returns home!

Review

I guess I’m a little infected with wanderlust at heart; my family have moved around several times before, I’ve always loved travelling, so the appeal of reading books like this is pretty strong.

Wanderlove was everything I was looking for in Maureen Johnson’s Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and more. I went in expecting a sweet travel story, a bit of romance thrown in for good measure (after all, it is YA, where good girls meet bad guys and fall in love with them all the time), and perhaps some good sightseeing and bug-biting around Central America. What I got was all of this, plus beautiful descriptions and illustrations here and there that blended in with the story perfectly, and an absolutely wonderful main character.

While I have to admit that this story is not a particularly realistic one and there is a severe case of Disappearing Parent Syndrome, I’m not expecting complete realism in travel stories. There are books like Going Postal that I’ve really enjoyed–yes, the book is true and yes, the crazy author of the story travels around the world in a postie bike, but he’s an adult. Bria is a teenager fresh out of high school, so I was willing to make accommodations for the sake of getting a good story. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that in real life, the teen would most likely be accompanied by his/her parents and not get up to any drug-smuggling, which wouldn’t exactly make for an interesting novel, right?

Despite Bria being a pretty strong and clear-headed heroine for most of the novel, the main problem I had was with her willing to leave with Startling and Rowan in the first place. I was, however, able to turn a blind eye to all of this, because the writing and the virtually flawless characterisation completely drew me in. Every single character was incredibly well-defined and had personality which extended far beyond my expectations, and it was obvious that Bria wasn’t a perfect traveller nor a perfect person; she was by no means a Mary-Sue, which delighted me to no end (Mary-Sues seem to be growing increasingly prevalent in YA Contemporary these days).

There were times when Bria broke down and cried and wondered what the heck she was doing out in Central America with nothing but her backpack and a brooding male as her travel companion, and this was so real. There was no insta-love; despite Rowan being the obvious love interest from his first entrance in the novel, he and Bria didn’t click together and fall into each other’s arms magically. While this resulted in intense frustration for me as I wanted them to JUST KISS IMMEDIATELY, it was, again, incredibly real.

In fact, one of my only quibbles with this novel was that Bria kept on lusting after her old boyfriend, and despite him being a bad guy and lying to her, when she was still thinking about him more than three-quarters of the way through the novel, I started getting a little tired. Yes, it must be hard breaking up with a boyfriend. Yes, you might think about him and wonder how things could’ve turned out differently. But he was a bastard, I would’ve broken up with him with no regrets (not that I have that much experience in the area), and I didn’t understand why Bria kept on hankering after him. Ugh.

You know what? I think you should read this book. I really, really think you should. It’s one of my favourite 2012 releases, it’s packed full of laugh-out-loud, lighthearted moments, and it infects you with a kind of wanderlust wanderlove too, broadening your want to see beyond the paper towns and paper lives we live in (if you got that reference, I love you).