Warning: This review contains spoilers.
I adore novels that read like a travelogue, especially when said novel comes equipped with sketches, photos, lists, and other scrapbook-like mementos from said trip. It should come as no surprise, then, that I found Wanderlove to be a delightful journey.
I am an indoors girl. No amount of sunshine or scenery could ever begin to overcome the fact that I am hopelessly and decidedly un-rugged. With that in mind, Wanderlove had a giant hurdle to leap in gaining my praises, since every other page reminded me once again of the hows and whys of my hotel and luggage travel persona. Since I’ve never
been there myself, I’ll have to take it on faith that Bria’s escapades through Central America do a good job of bringing the local culture and landscape to life. Unfortunately, the detailed accounts of her struggles while roughing it backpacker-style didn’t do much to endear me to the idea of this mode of travel. Yet Hubbard’s story doesn’t demand equal enthusiasm for the wander bug in order to resonate. I adore stories that bring you along for the ride, no matter how uncomfortable that ride might seem at times, and in this Wanderlove excels.
Bria was a likable narrator, perhaps a bit too self-conscious, yet that criticism might emanate from the fact that I saw too much of my own high school self in her. While I understand that her one-sided relationship with her ex served as the catalyst for the path to self-discovery, I felt that Hubbard dwelled too much on remembrances of Toby that ultimately proved unnecessary. Rather than fleshing out the causes for Bria’s hesitance and lack of direction, the flashback scenes merely felt like rehashing the same melodrama time and again while never really making Toby seem like a character in his own right. Had this particular plotline been resolved through present-tense ruminations rather than flashback, it would have propelled the story along while still serving the same illuminating purpose.
I enjoyed Starling and Rowan as supporting characters, though Starling perhaps served as too much of a foil. Though her character begins to gain some depth, it occurs nearly at the end of the novel and so seems something of a throwaway. Rowan showed the greater potential of the two, and I feel that Hubbard did a good job of rounding out his character without revealing too much. Since Bria has only known him for a handful of days, it would be ludicrous if we the readers gained much more insight than she would be able to realistically in just over a week. Yet we and Bria learn enough to make their connection plausible, if improbable. As another reviewer has mentioned, I appreciated the fact that Bria doesn’t sway from her decision to attend college, even after her relationship with Rowan becomes solidified. It is rare to see the achievement of potential be weighed responsibly against the excitement of young love, and Hubbard’s novel does well to imbue its protagonist with the strength to take the mature route.
Conversely, I was a bit surprised that she allowed Rowan to temper his own wanderlove somewhat in response to his desire to be near Bria. Unlike many reviewers, I felt the novel gave a good indication of Rowan’s decision to ground himself near Bria in the near future, rather than providing the unresolved ending that many readers have lamented. While the romantic in me appreciated this concession, I felt it was a tad too neat considering how adamantly Rowan had subscribed to his wanderlove philosophy throughout the rest of the novel.
In all, Wanderlove is a worthwhile read for those who like to reminisce about those in-between years when identity seems an elusive thing, and for those whose feet itch to take them to places far away.