The Reckless Kind came to my attention while I was working on GeekDis, but was unfortunately not available to review at the time. A book with multiple disability and LGBTQA+ representation, it was one that caught my attention despite being in a genre I don’t normally read. The Reckless Kind looked to be one of those books that was too important to not read. Read on to find out if my instincts were correct!
This book was provided for free by NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Soho Teen for the opportunity to review The Reckless Kind!
There are scenes of violence restoring in long-term disabilities and loss of a limb. Multiple characters deal with disabilities, both mental and physical, throughout this novel, and they are discussed in detail (please see disability representations above for a full list). While the topic of disability is handled with respect by the author, who is disabled herself, this is a historical novel and therefore, attitudes in 1904 were very ableist. Likewise, there is a lot of homophobia, sexism and general prejudice against anyone who does not fit into societal and religious norms (i.e. non-Christian).
There are some scenes of mistreatment of horses, such as bad handling and whipping. There are no animal deaths. There is a human death, and the topics of grief and survivors guilt are core topics in this novel.
Finally, please be aware that the topic of alcoholism and the effect it has on a family is covered in this novel.
The Reckless Kind is a historical novel set in a Norway in 1904 and focuses on the lives of three friends; Asta Hedstrom, Gunnar Fuglestad and Erlend Fournier. Asta and Gunnar have known each other since childhood, and they become associated with Erlend through the theatre his father owns. Each of them comes from completely different backgrounds. Gunnar is the son of the local female farrier (horse specialist) and their family has won the village’s annual horse race for the last few years, much to the anger of their neighbours. It isn’t just jealously that fuels this anger; the Fuglestad family are “heathens” (pagans), they do not believe in God or follow the Christian religion. The annual horse race is a celebration of the local Christian saint, and the fact that a heathen family continues to win the race, thus saving the price pig/s from slaughter, infuriates many upstanding men in the village.
In comparison, Erlend comes from an entirely different life; his family are wealthy foreigners and his parents let their son use their theatre to hold plays with his friends in hopes that he’ll grow out of his silliness and settle down eventually. The truth is that Erlend has no interest in settling down, especially not with a woman. He struggles with anxiety, throwing stomach pills down his throat to try to stop the churning he constantly fills. All the while, he puts on a facade that he knows what he’s doing, yet Erlend has never had to do anything for himself or anyone else.
Asta was born Deaf in one ear, heterochromia (different coloured eyes), a white stripe in the front of her hair and with a facial deformity. As Heath points out in her notes at the end of the novel, these are all signs of a condition of Waardenburg Syndrome, however, this syndrome would not be formerly named for another fifty years.
The character of Asta is complete fiction, but the idea for her came from a description of a child that Heath happened upon during her research. What Heath instantly recognised as Waardenburg Syndrome was not how people in a small village in Norway in 1904 would react. She is openly shunned and mocked by her community, kept hidden away by her parents until her two elder sisters had secured husbands. Even to her own family, she was considered an inconvenience, a mistake, and she is made to believe that she must accept Nils’ proposal because no one else will ever accept her.
Friendship is not the only tie that binds these three friends, each one of them is an outcast and that draws them together. When events force them to choose between each other or the people who have never and will never understand them, they choose each other. But standing apart from the wider community isn’t easy, especially for three young people who are disabled, gay (Erlend and Gunnar) and asexual (Asta) and there are more trials and tribulations awaiting them.
(I want to add that while I’m using modern terms in my review, Heath does a fantastic job of remaining within a historical context and refraining from using modern language and concepts.)
While there’s no actual magic in The Reckless Kind, this is a novel that makes it’s own magic. It’s a beautiful story of resilience, identity and belonging, of finding your truth and following your own path. It’s not always easy to do it, and along the way you’re going to stumble and fall (a lot) but in the end you’ll end up where you want to be and with whom you want to be with. The Reckless Kind is a reminder to all of us that our people, the ones who love and care about us for who we are, not what we look like, who we love or what we believe, will always stand by us, and they will walk that path with us.
As I said, I don’t read outside my preferred genres very often, and if you’re the same The Reckless Kind is one book I suggest making an exception for 😉
Over to you
Thank you for taking the time to read my review for The Reckless Kind I hope you enjoyed it 🙂 There are so many levels to this book, and if you love horses, you’ll love the way they feature in this book too.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of my reviews if you’re looking for some more book recommendations 🙂 You can also now sign up for my newsletter to get an email each month with a list of my new reviews!
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