Author: Kirsten Hubbard
Publisher: March 13th 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
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.
The plot was simply fantastic. What better way to get to know a character really well than to drop them out in the middle of nowhere? As a non-wannabe-backpacker, even I could appreciate the journey Bria took, both physically and mentally. Though this is a travel book, a road trip book, the majority of the story was all about Bria’s mental journey. The dialogue was simple, in that there wasn’t a need for flowery adverbs or adjectives or the like. Hubbard let her characters communicate in a spare, but real, way, which only enhanced the characters and setting.
I absolutely loved Bria as a character, she was funny and sad and hopeful. Her heart was broken and she figured what better way to heal (and maybe prove her ass of an ex-boyfriend wrong) than to strike off on an adventure. Her friends ditched her but she took it in stride. She managed to keep her sense of humor most of the time. Even when she was uncomfortable in a situation, she tried to look on the bright side and see it for what it was – an adventure. Her travel mate, Rowan, seemed at first to be the typical bad boy, backpacking all over the world, leaving a trail of empty beds and broken hearts in his wake, but it didn’t take long before we learned there was more to his story than just being a manwhore. Rowan’s sister Starling was a hoot. She was a confident young backpacker who helped Bria see she could do something unexpected. There were other characters we met briefly along the way, and they all added something to the story, they weren’t there just to add flavor.
One of the best things about the book was the relationship between Rowan and Bria. One might expect them to hook up right away, but it was established pretty soon that they were just friends, nothing more. This allowed their friendship to form in ways it wouldn’t have otherwise. There was flirting, sure, but that was more a process of Bria shedding her old habits and feelings and learning about who she was. The romance there was felt realistic and honest to me.
The writing was so evocative that I felt like I was really visiting these far-flung destinations. I could feel the wind, smell the scents and see the lush green jungles that Bria was experiencing. The ending of the book left me with a happy, satisfied feeling, which I really liked. Hubbard has a real gift for writing fiction and I’m so glad she started writing novels instead of sticking to travel writing. You can bet I will be purchasing everything else she puts out there.
The cover is okay, though I’m not crazy about it. I like the spare look, nothing flashy or too colorful. Just a girl and some flower petals (?) blowing in the wind. It doesn’t say a lot about what’s between the covers, but it also wouldn’t make me run the other way if I saw it on a bookshelf in the store.
An amazing journey with heart that had me entertained the entire way.