Each journey begins with a single step
Something Wild & Wonderful Book Cover Something Wild & Wonderful
Anita Kelly
Romantic Comedy, Contemporary Romance
March 7th, 2023
Paperback, Ebook, Audiobook

Alexei Lebedev’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail begins with a single snake. And it is angling for the hot stranger who seemed to have appeared out of thin air. Lex is prepared for rattlesnakes, blisters, and months of solitude. What he isn’t prepared for is Ben Caravalho. But somehow—on a 2,500-mile trail—Alexei keeps running into the outgoing and charismatic hiker with golden-brown eyes, again and again. It might be coincidence. Then again, maybe there’s a reason the trail keeps bringing them together . . . Ben has made his fair share of bad decisions, and almost all of them involved beautiful men. And yet there’s something about the gorgeous and quietly nerdy Alexei that Ben can’t just walk away from. Surely a bad decision can’t be this cute and smart. And there are worse things than falling in love during the biggest adventure of your life. But when their plans for the future are turned upside down, Ben and Alexei begin to wonder if it’s possible to hold on to something this wild and wonderful.

If you were around me in 2021 and 2022, you may know that Anita Kelly’s first book was my entire life. I consumed “Love & Other Disasters” faster than any judge on Chef’s Special. I wouldn’t shut up about it. I made it my whole personality and foisted my recommendation on anyone who would listen. Sorry, not sorry.

London was my first non-binary main character and I immediately loved them. Their story was about coming out as non-binary, acceptance, family dynamics, and finding love.

“Something Wild & Wonderful” is also a coming out novel, though laid out way differently than L&OD. “Something Wild & Wonderful” takes us on a literal and figurative journey, and just like the Pacific Crest Trail, not all of the terrain on the path is easily navigable, but the journey and the destination are worth it in the end.

“I think, for a long time, I kept letting people break my heart because I didn’t know what else to do. Letting them leave, or hurt me, because I grew to expect it. Because maybe I thought I deserved it. But I think maybe I have to try more. To stand up for my own happiness, you know? Unbreak my own heart, sometimes.”

I loved reading this book and getting to know Ben and Alexei through their individual journeys. Kelly also spun some magic in pushing me to make this book my whole personality. I spent way too much time googling hiking trails, the PCT, and the distance to my nearest L.L. Bean. (It wasn’t far, and I went and bought a cute hoodie and a pull-over sweater that I also made my whole personality this fall.)

“I want you to love the whole me. I don’t want you to love me in secret.”

Something Wild & Wonderful has layers of depth. There is so much to unpack in this story: coming out, coming out again (and again and again, not just a one time thing), family dynamics, romantic entanglements, safety, and personal boundaries. I encourage all readers who pick this novel up to think about their own journeys while meeting Ben and Alexei.

The best part of this novel was at the end of the novel: letters. Sent and unsent letters, sharing some innermost feelings from our two main characters, is an excellent device used by the author to show emotion and enhance the drama. Dialogue is great, and one of my favorite parts of a story, but there’s something about a letter where someone pours all the feelings of their heart out in order for someone else to know them. They are powerful and personal, and Anita Kelly knocked it out of the park.

What I might have tweaked…

My small gripe, while read through the lens of someone LGBTQ, is that I felt the diagnosis in the epilogue could have either come earlier in the novel or been left out altogether. Honestly, it felt like an afterthought.

Alexei could have had time to work through the diagnosis while on his journey. Since his entire hike on the PCT was to work through his feelings and reconcile his past with his unwritten future, his journey could have also included this very big and very personal discovery about himself. It didn’t have to come at the end, and having it unveiled at that point in the story seemingly diminishes the work that he did on his own while building and discovering Alexei 2.0.

“I think I’ve been so obsessed with all of my bad decisions that I haven’t truly given myself enough chances to make good ones.”

Final Thoughts

Anita Kelly, I will read anything you opt to publish. I am a huge fan.

The LGBTQ+ community, and the world, need more stories and representation. No two novels, much like real people’s histories, are the same.

Thank you to Forever for the advanced reader copy in exchange for honest review.