REVIEW: On The Kalalau Trail by Robin Reardon

The Official Description: Self-discovery. Sounds simple, right? After all, you’re already there. You’re already you. So it can surprise us that it takes so much time, and so much effort. It surprises Nathan Bartlett.

In the first Trailblazer book (On Chocorua), Nathan’s adored older brother had died a tragic death. Two years later, during this second book, his grandmother—who’d raised her three grandchildren alone since Nathan was a baby—passes on as well.

Nathan realizes he hadn’t really known the people he’d loved. So he goes on a quest, searching for connections he hadn’t known how to make in life. Part of Nathan’s journey is a physical one, a hike promoted by Conroy Finnegan of Finnegan’s Walks.

Conroy is sexy, very masculine, and charismatic—a rolling stone with no moss, a gypsy rover, leading a life with no strings attached, and he seduces Nathan in more ways than one. His invitation is irresistible:

“Come experience a place where the physical and the spiritual are one. A place where magic happens, where the very names are magical: Na Pali. Ho’olulu. Waiahuakua. Hanakoa. Hanakāpīʻai. Nathan, come to Kaua’i.”

Conroy leads Nathan to paradise and lets him find his own way back.Nathan begins his journey as a searcher. On the way he becomes a seeker. These states of mind are different. And neither is in itself the end of Nathan’s journey.

Walk with him.

Just the facts: Queer New adult book, hiking, self-discovery, processing grief

Nathan’s life has been full of loss. He sets out on a hike that might bring him some self-discovery he’s not aware he’s in need of. – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit: This is the second book in the Trailblazers series by Robin Reardon. This book can be read as a stand-alone because there’s more than enough background in it for you to understand what has happened during Nathan’s life.

Nathan is processing a lot. He’s finishing up his undergraduate degree but he’s been through a lot of turmoil in his life. His parents and grandfather died in an accident when he was very young. He’s processing the loss of his brother in a horrific accident. He’s still aching from the loss of his first love, Alden who was a Fentanyl addict. Then early on in this novel, Nathan’s Gram passes away.

I found myself wondering while I was reading this book if Nathan was feeling guilty because he hadn’t been able to “be there” for any of the people that he’s lost in his life. He hasn’t been present at any of the losses that have occurred… and while I was reading I found myself thinking about the guilt that would add up based on that. I’m not saying he “is” responsible for any of the losses, quite the opposite, but I know what it’s like to lose people and I know how that can build up when there are multiple losses.

Nathan meets Conroy on a hike at the beginning of this book. He seems to be charismatic and confident and draws Nathan in. Nathan follows his heart, it’s what he did in the first -book and it’s the same pull he feels in this second installment. The thing is, he already knows that he wants more. He doesn’t want someone for a casual relationship, he wants something more important, deeper.

Overall, this is an interesting read. The descriptions of the hike were lovely and made me want to go to Hawaii! One of the things I love about this series is the way that Reardon describes the hikes and the amazing places that Nathan visits. It’s clear that Reardon has a connection to the outdoors.

I didn’t feel as connected to Nathan in this book as I did in the first one. I’m not sure what it was, except that his behaviors didn’t seem to match the thoughts that were going on in his head sometimes. I feel like he’s a character that comes across as fairly mature but then his decisions were often impulsive or without much thought.

Conroy is a character who says he is bisexual. I must admit I do get a bit tired of bisexual characters nearly always being depicted as only wanting casual relationships with people. I suppose it could be the books that I’m reading but my sense is that there’s a lot of misunderstanding regarding bisexual individuals. Either way, Conroy was interesting in that he was very dedicated to what he did. He was a knowledgeable hiker and pretty clear upfront about his wants and needs.

I would definitely pick up the next book in the series as I’m curious to see how Nathan’s past is going to help to shape his future. I really feel as though I’ve been getting to know Nathan as he has grown and changed. That’s a lovely gift to be able to receive from an author!

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) descriptions of relationship with a person addicted to Fentanyl, description of hiking accident resulting in little injury, homophobia from a family member, death of a sibling in the past due to fire.

Readalikes: Other stories that are similar or give the same feel.

Links: Goodreads // The Author //

I received an ARC of On the Kalalau Trail by Robin Reardon via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.


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