A genre-defying debut, this queer historical YA centers a wild and reckless trio who fly in the face of small town tradition—full of compassion, love, and determination to live the lives of their choosing.
It’s Norway 1904, and Asta Hedstrom doesn’t want to marry her odious betrothed, Nils—even though a domestic future is all her mother believes she’s suited for, on account of her single-sided deafness, unconventional appearance, and even stranger notions. Asta would rather spend her life performing in the village theater with her friends and fellow outcasts: her best friend Gunnar Fuglestad and his secret boyfriend, wealthy Erlend Fournier.
But the situation takes a dire turn when Nils lashes out in jealousy—gravely injuring Gunnar. Shunning marriage for good, Asta moves with Gunnar and Erlend to their secluded cabin above town. With few ties left with their families, they have one shot at gaining enough kroner to secure their way of life: win the village’s annual horse race.
I honestly don’t know where to start with this novel. I was sure from the first few chapters that I would absolutely love it, and I was correct in that thinking! The more I read though, the more I was caught up in the characters and the plot. So by the time I had nearly finished reading I didn’t want to have to leave these beautiful characters and the world they created for themselves behind.
I am nearly overwhelmed with how wonderful these characters are. It could be said that the plot of the novel itself was quite simple, but cleverly so, as I felt it needed to be to help the characters shine. They are, after all, the stars of this novel. What I loved most about these characters I think is how they adapted in a world that wasn’t quite ready for them yet. They were alienated in their own hometown for things they couldn’t control – their looks, whom they loved, or even just for injuries out of the characters control. Through this they persevered with a unique strength and togetherness which managed to make me quite emotional multiple times.
Each of the main characters was wonderfully fleshed out and felt so real to me as I read. I loved that Heath wrote this story with multiple points of view. Told in first person, each narrating character had their own unique voice and perspective which helped to make this the magical novel that it is. After a few chapters I didn’t feel the need to check the name at the beginning of each chapter to find out who was narrating, the language used and even the names used by each narrator for certain characters made for some individual character voices. I think this is something that Heath has done so well, as she has really brought me into each characters mind – how they think and feel.
Something else I was really impressed with was the amount of research Heath did into the terms for certain things within her novel. She included sexualities, disabilities, and different injuries all without using the very specific terms that we would use today but did so in such a way that meant the reader understood. She also made sure that though she was using a language of a different time period, that she kept the language such that it (where possible) was least impactful for a reader today, but without taking away from the experience of the character. This is a testament to Heath’s almost magical way with language, so much so that she can draw you into the minds and worlds of the main characters and make you want to stay with them.
As mentioned before the plot of this novel was rather simplistic, but done so in such a beautiful way, it pushed the characters to shine on their own merit. Enhancing the novel as a whole. In this way the characters brought the plot to life which I loved. The only thing I had a little trouble with though was pacing. At times things did feel a little slow, but it in no way marred my enjoyment of the novel. The romance involved was beautifully subtle, but with big heart – and here I mean romance in the sense of both romantic and platonic (yes, I used the word romance in the terms of the platonic). The closeness of the main characters, whether romantic or platonic took found family to a new level, and while the romance between Erland and Gunnar was the main focus, I found the friendship Asta had with the two boys so much more tangible, as well as the other connections the trio made with other outsiders. It was so nice to delve into a novel where the friendships felt just as cared for in the writing process as the main romance itself.
The Reckless Kind is such a beautifully written, emotional, and powerful story about friendship, trust, and embracing the things about yourself which make you unique. It is also about finding your people, the ones who love you for the things that others may shun you for, and sticking with them through whatever comes your way. This was an amazing read, and I highly recommend it for those who want to read a historical fiction novel that pushes the genre in the best way possible.
Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy), I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title was published 9th November 2021.