A tale of self-discovery slowly unfolds in this novel about a talented artist who falls for her travel companion as she backpacks in Central America.
Eighteen-year-old Bria defiantly embarks on a post–high-school graduation trip, quickly abandoning the tour group full of squares she’s with and uneasily throwing her lot in with globetrotter Starling and her surly, yet intriguing brother, Rowan. Bria and Rowan eventually wind up on their own, both guarding their secrets mightily from the other. Bria is distinctive—embarrassed that she let her dreams of art school be sabotaged by a former boyfriend and self-conscious about appearing to be a naïve traveler, but also often tough and assertive. While these seemingly incongruous qualities make for interesting reading, her internal voice sometimes seems to clash with her dry, almost tartly down-to-earth outward persona, as when she thinks, “Tonight, I am the bohemian beach fairy of my fantasies.” Rowan, who is attempting to leave behind a sordid past that includes drug use and smuggling, is similarly complex. If the pacing drags at times, there are also some thrillingly romantic, smart and funny moments. Pencil drawings by the author embellish appealingly.
A thoughtful and meandering travel narrative, this will find an audience among readers willing to take the time to get to know characters whose motives they might not always understand. (Fiction. 13 & up)