WanderloveWanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If right now, at age 35, I had to choose my nostalgia book of all times, I'd choose Wanderlove.

It was almost physically painful to read.

A forewarning though: if you are not the adventurous type, are not and never were interested in traveling with a backpack, but on the contrary think it's highly dangerous and unhygienic and are not interested in the nuances of this bohemian life, this might not be the book for you.

Bria Sandoval has just turned 18. It's the summer between her graduation and her college entry.

Only, there is no college. She has applied at the renowned Art School in California but, for some reason she is not going. Because you see, Bria is an artist who's lost the passion to draw. To make things even worse, she's just been dumped by her (artist) boyfriend, Toby.

In an attempt to snap out of this impasse, Bria decides to travel to Guatemala with a tourist group called Global Vagabonds. But once there, she meets Starling and her enigmatic brother Rowan, who convince her to ditch her group and her suitcase and travel with them as a backpacker for the remaining days of her holidays.

On the road from Guatemala to Belize, jumping from a chicken bus to a water taxi, lost in a market or simply lost in translation, Bria is forced to put to the test her confidence, her trust, her talent but most of all she will need face all her issues, free herself of her constrictions and of her past and just live the moment.

The reason why I loved this book is pretty obvious: it took me back in time. The places were not the same but the narration has such an unmistakable taste of reality that I really connected. Clearly, the author is speaking from personal experience, or she wouldn't know about wrapping backpacks with garbage bags, chicken bus ride (my worst one was from Maracaibo, Venezuela to Barranquilla, Colombia) or described a central/south American bus station so accurately. As a consequence of that, I connected well also with the characters, the "traveled" backpackers Starling and Rowan, for whom is valid the saying that "the smaller the backpack, the bigger the ego".

As for the MC, Bria, she is not very likable at the beginning. She comes out as a bit of a whiny, spoiled brat - though she kind of won me over with her "gutter water" Windbreaker - but she grows, she matures in the course of the story and, even though I wanted to kick her and her backpack straight into the Caribbean sea at one point, the dock scene with Rowan? What the f*ck was that about? Are you mad, girl?I took away 1 star only for that idiotic passage she eventually comes to her senses by the end of the book, making her a decent MC and a believable character.

I thought this book was really enjoyable, light but with a bit of depth - even social - and with a touch of exotic that makes it the perfect read for people who are looking for a bit of adventure, love, folklore and a decently written story.

Oh, and I loved the illustrations by the author in the book, an added bonus that make this story even more dreamy.

My favorite quote, which is actually a quote within the quote:

" A painting doesn't have to have a profound meaning. It doesn't have to "say" something. We fall in love for simpler reasons."

Harley Brown

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher.

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