First Lines: As soon as I see the blond girl bouncing down the aisle, I know she’s heading for the empty seat beside me. It’s just my luck.
I’ve had this on my to-read list for 3.5 years, and it just happened that I put it on hold at the library right about the time I started getting really into Spanish/Latino culture. So it all worked out!
Bria Sandoval desperately does not want to be the Bria Sandoval she was. Everything changes when she books a trip to Central America the summer before college–but it’s the wrong trip. Instead of being with other teenagers, she’s with middle-aged tourists in fanny packs. When Bria meets Rowan, a backpacker and dive instructor, and his sister Starling, Bria ditches her tour group to see Central America as a backpacker. But while Bria is a good girl trying to go bad, Rowan is a bad boy trying to be good. Together, they discover something they have in common: they’re both running from their pasts. But if Bria wants to make her life better, she’s going to have to start looking back, no matter what Rowan says.
Much like Bria was at the beginning of the book, I am not a traveler. Whereas I have friends that go on road trips and buy plane tickets at the drop of a hat, I would much rather just travel into the town I grew up in or just over the state line somewhere.
But this book was fantastic for showing me what Central America would be like if I ever wanted to visit. (Hint: after reading about some of the awful bugs and monsters Bria runs into, I’m fine here, thanks.)
I’m not sure what I really expected out of this story and Bria, but they both took me by surprise. Bria is the kind of person who is an observer rather than a doer, and she wants to change that. The fact that she travelled out of the country on her own and tried to reinvent herself like that when others said she couldn’t…she totally earned my respect.
While we’re talking about characters, let’s just round out the main characters. Starling and Rowan were very sweet characters. Starling is this bubbly, exuberant personality. Her scenes usually made me smile. Rowan, on the other hand, is more dark and mysterious. He’s still sweet, but it’s tempered by his darker personality. He’s a little standoffish, but it worked for his character. It really felt like him instead of some plot device.
I thought the scenery was beautifully described. I feel like I’ve actually visited Guatemala and Belize. Everything from cramped capital cities to the pure blue of Lake Atitlan to the Mayan ruins were vividly written. (And really, I’d rather just pretend I’ve been there. Fewer sunburns and bug bites, but also LESS SCARY ANIMALS. *shudders*)
I mentioned earlier that Bria is an observer, but she’s also an artist. And, lucky for us, the author is also. She included drawings of some of the scenes throughout the book, which was really great. It just gave us another layer of Bria’s personality, come to life. I liked that I could see exactly what she was seeing.
Finally, I just want to say that this book is cute, funny, and inspiring. There were more layers to the story than I had expected, and the characters and scenery were incredibly vivid. A definite read for people who want to travel the world from their own couch!