Published: May 2012
Bria just graduated from high school and booked a trip to explore Guatemala with a tour group. She intends to get over her ex-boyfriend Toby and create new and empowering experiences for herself. The trouble is, Bria gets in her own way. She's pretty down about herself early on, having struggled with what is slowly revealed to have been an emotionally abusive relationship with Toby. She gives up her art, and the idea of art school, when Toby's competitive nature essentially shames her into taking a backseat to him, and she no longer feels she has her own identity. Her parents don't understand her, and her two best friends think she's using her trip to escape rather than to deal with life.
But Wanderlove isn't all gloomy introspection. Bria is an optimistic, life-loving girl, who just needs to find herself. She discovers her tour group is more in tune with the over-50 crowd which makes her feel like even more of an outcast, and she longs for a more spontaneous, culture-invasive experience among the vagabond backpackers she sees in the first days of her trip.
Bria meets brother and sister duo Starling and Rowan who have been travelling through Central and South America for several years. She ditches her tour group, ready to soak up the backpacker experience. Along the way, she tentatively sketches, although she's afraid to embrace her artistic inclinations because of the hurt she experienced with Toby. Starling and Rowan take her to remote small islands and bustling hostels. As much as she enjoys traveling with them, both are secretive, especially Rowan. He mentions a troubled past, but makes Bria promise not to ask, and in return, he won't ask what she's really running from.
I loved how Bria's personal journey matched so well with her travels. The book even features sketches from Bria's book, drawn by the author. This is an example of how great YA literature can be -- it's fun, but intimate. The writing is top notch, and the characters are so likeable, even though they struggle with liking themselves. I highly recommend Wanderlove to any fans of YA, travel and self discovery.