Publication Date: March 7, 2023
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads – StoryGraph
CW: familial estrangement due to queer identity; harsh homophobic language (used in Chapter 16); religion and strict religious upbringing (Christianity); mentions of Alzheimer’s/dementia care; brief references to past toxic romantic relationships.
How do your review a book that was literal perfection? I don’t throw that word around often, but Something Wild & Wonderful was perfect. This was a beautiful tale of two people finding themselves and finding love while on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I didn’t expect to fall in love with this book so quickly, but the characters and their journey hooked me immediately and swept me away. I was an emotional mess at the end because I was just so happy for Alexei and Ben.
After being disowned by his family for being gay and at a bit of a crossroads in his life, Alexei Lebedev decided to tackle the 2,500-mile Pacific Crest Trail to challenge himself and discover who Alexei 2.0 is. He’s prepared for rattlesnakes, blisters, and months of solitude. But he isn’t ready for Ben Caravalho, the outgoing and charismatic hiker he keeps running into. Ben’s made his fair share of bad decisions when it comes to handsome men, but there is something about the gorgeous and quietly nerdy Alexei that he cannot walk away from. Alexei and Ben become trail buddies, hiking together, reading Tamora Pierce’s Alanna together at night, and slowly falling in love during the biggest adventure of their lives. But when the world outside the trail comes calling, they wonder if it is possible to hold on to something this wild and wonderful.
Ben and Alexei give this book so much life and personality. It’s a testament to Anita Kelly’s writing that both of them jump off the page as if they’re real people. Alexei is more quiet and reserved – he sees things in a different light than most people. Ben is outgoing and charismatic – he can easily pull people into his orbit and make them feel comfortable. And both are a little bit broken in their own way. They’re an unlikely match on paper, but together, they balance each other out and see the best in each other. I fell in love with them so quickly and wanted to protect them from any heartache or pain at all costs. But of course, they’re going to have to face some of that on their own.
The journey Alexei and Ben go on together, both physically and emotionally, is beautiful. The PCT changes both of them for the better. It’s not always an easy journey, but it’s one they both needed to tackle on their own terms to come out better in the end. There is a section towards the end that I truly loved, even if it was a bit emotional, as it played such a crucial role in Ben and Alexei’s journey. Those chapters are told in the epistolary format, and I found them to be some of the most powerful and emotional. In letters, both sent and unsent, Ben and Alexei can be open, honest, and raw about their emotions regarding the people in their lives. They were some of my favorite chapters for that reason.
The romance in this book is beautiful. Alexei and Ben seemed like they were meant to find each other on the trail. For Alexei, all he’s ever wanted is a relationship, but since coming out, he’s not had luck finding it and feels more alone after his parents disowned him. Ben’s got his own hangups with relationships as he feels he falls hard and fast for the wrong guy and blames himself for that. Both are not looking for a relationship, but they cannot deny the connection between them. I loved watching these two fall into love, navigating the awkwardness and beauty of it. There is an ease between them that is apparent from the start, and all I wanted was for them to get their happily ever after together. The romance gave me all the warm, gooey feelings inside, as it was such a beautiful depiction of queer love.
If this book wasn’t on your radar yet, please immediately add it to your TBR! Anita Kelly has such a way with words as their stories are truly magical and can make you feel all the emotions. Love & Other Disasters was one of my favorite books in 2022, and I feel Something Wild & Wonderful will be a top read of 2023 as it’s the type of story that sticks with you. This is a wonderful read, filled with humor, heart, and hope, and I cannot recommend it enough!
Thank you to Forever/Netgalley for the ARC. All thoughts, ideas, and opinions expressed in this review are my own.