I have a deep fondness for books that force teenagers to travel to places they might not have wanted...more-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books. --
I have a deep fondness for books that force teenagers to travel to places they might not have wanted to go to and that, in turn, force them to grow up into better people than they were at the beginning of the book/journey. This is why I had such high hopes for 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and why I had such high hopes for Wanderlove! Luckily Wanderlove does what I wanted 13 Little Blue Envelopes to do, and it does is in a completely amazing way that, if I had a physical copy of this book, would make me cuddle it to my chest for about a week. That's how happy this book makes me.
First off: Bria. I love her! She's a great protagonist, with enough flaws that she comes off as completely human instead of a sock puppet or something. I loved how she went from a tourist to a traveler, and how that changed helped her deal with the things that she was running away from in the first place. The other characters are great, too, though I think Bria's friends (who stayed at home) were a bit flat compared to almost everyone else. I think that might have been because they only interact with Bria in flashback scenes, as opposed to, say, Starling, who interacts with Bria in the present.
Secondly: The location of Wanderlove is fantastic-- and, I think, kind of unusual for YA travel fiction (which usually seems to take place in Europe). I've been interested in Central America as a potential travel destination for a while, mainly because of Guatemala and all the interesting ruins peppered throughout the area as a whole. Wanderlove has only made me even more interested in going there myself; the descriptions of the various places Bria goes to are vivid without going over-the-top, and reading them made my wanderlust (or wanderlove!) go from somewhere around a 6 to up past 11.
Besides that, though, the non-travel parts of the story are just as good. I really like romances where each partner goes through a positive change through help of the other person, especially when it's not just a straight shot from "bad" to "good." There's bumps. There's miscommunication. And then there's explaining and patching things up and working through things in a really positive way! Plus, I'm always going to be a fan of coming-of-age novels and Wanderlove is no exception.
So, basically: if you like contemporary YA books, or books with travel in them, or even just great romances: you'll love Wanderlove. It's SO GOOD. SO. GOOD.(less)
Technically I suppose I could have just Googled all this information instead of getting...moreOriginally reviewed September 16, 2010 at Here There Be Books.
Technically I suppose I could have just Googled all this information instead of getting a whole book about, especially since price fluctuations are happening even as you read this. (omg!) But I thought maybe there'd be something more useful than numbers in here and so I requested it through ILL. I was right (of course). It's a useful books in terms of figuring out where my Western money goes the farthest, but it's also useful in learning more about what there actually is to DO in those cheap countries. And reading about those countries? Made me want to go there-- and not just because they're cheap.
Bolivia, for instance, was never really a country I thought about travelling to much beyond the "tour of South America" thing I was considering a while ago. But after reading The World's Cheapest Destinations it's definitely moved up my list of "must-see places." Why? You'll just have to read the book for yourself and find out! Ha. Ha.
Anyway, it's a decent primer for finding out where the least expensive countries are, what you can do when you get there, and what the climate/society is like. Think of it like a more basic version of a country's guidebook-- it won't tell you how to get from one place to another, or what exactly to do once you get there, but it'll tell you what you can buy for under $1 (really interesting things, actually).
Note: I think the author keeps specific money things updated on his website, so price fluctuations aren't that big a deal, not like changes in a country's government/infrastructure/etc are a big deal.(less)
This is my first Maureen Johnson book. Can you believe it? Of course I knew who she was way before I downloaded this book, but I just hadn't gotten around to reading anything of hers before now. And now? Yeah! I think I'll probably read more of her books.
13 Little Blue Envelopes reminds me a lot of John Green's books, although obviously with a female protagonist instead of male. I also want to say that the romance is less important in this book than in some of JG's books. In JG's books I think a lot of a character's development stems from the meeting of or time spent with the love interest. In Envelopes there's a bit of romance, but it's secondary to the other things and I do feel like Ginny's development mostly comes from her experiences abroad as a whole, not just with the romance.
Or maybe I feel that way because I really hated the romance in this book. I'm not sure! All I know is that Ginny's love interest skeezed the hell out of me, so maybe I flung that part in the "less important" folder of my brain in an effort to cope.
Anyway, my favorite part of the book was, of course, the traveling. I love it when characters travel! The relationship between the physical movement and the emotional/personal growth, etc. is probably the only sort of trope that won't ever annoy me. Plus, Ginny goes through so many good and bad things that happen when you travel that it simultaneously made me want to go to Europe right now and stay at home cowering with my head under the covers.
Unfortunately, because it's got all this stuff in it-- travel, romance, something with family-- it did feel a bit all over the place. Sometimes those things go really well together, but sometimes they can seem disparate. I feel like the book didn't entirely know where it was going. If the envelopes and Ginny's personal growth in relation to them were the most important part of the story (which I'm assuming is the case), then why did it feel like it was being pushed aside for other, almost nonsensical things?
Some of the travel sequences especially felt out of place, because I couldn't see how they contributed to the overall story. Like, when Ginny stayed with that uber-touristy family in Amsterdam (was it Amsterdam?). What was the point of that, besides giving her a way to stay, of course? What was the point of the daughter telling Ginny about her personal life, when it came out of nowhere and didn't seem to even affect Ginny or the plotline?
I suppose all the "nonsensical" things were there to show how weird and wonderful traveling solo is, but I still think it made the story less tightly plotted than it could have been. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading about Ginny and her aunt's envelopes, and I definitely want to read the next book. I think the sequel has less with the creepy boyfriend, so that's good!(less)
I picked this up last week when I was hankering for a travel book and only have historical fiction wi...more-- Originally reviewed at Here There Be Books. --
I picked this up last week when I was hankering for a travel book and only have historical fiction with me. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for (I thought it meant "tourism" like "adult tourists"), but it was interesting and somewhat informative. It was also convoluted and just basically read like it didn't know what it wanted to be.
It's supposed to be about educational tourism, specifically about how it relates to students and their teachers. Just that by itself would have been fine (if kinda boring), but Mr Cushner adds in personal anecdotes and a few bits of statistical info. Okay, now, that sounds alright on the surface, but it never actually tied everything together as neatly as I've made it sound. It would have been immensely better if it had been either an academic study on education tourism, etc etc, or a personal story about one teacher who used educational tourism in his curriculum.
Because Mr Cushner tries to mesh the two, it makes the book both boring and interesting by turns. I was way more interested in his life as a teacher using e.t. in his classroom than I was by the statistics, but if I was trying to read it as an academic study I would have been disappointed there, too. The academic part was just as as lacking as the personal part. It just didn't flow well, and the disparity between the stats/personal stuff was jarring.
Admittedly I skimmed through most of the statistic stuff, but I did manage to glean what I think the book is actually supposed to be about: how visiting other countries, living with its people, and integrating that into one's worldview is a wonderful, necessarily thing for today's kids. Broadening horizons, and all that.(less)