Book Review: The Reckless Kind

Carly Heath’s The Reckless Kind sweeps readers away to a fictional island near Norway in 1904, as a trio of teenagers on the brink of adulthood decide to buck the status quo and live their lives authentically, even if it means isolating themselves from their community.

Asta is engaged to an older boy whom her mother thinks is the perfect match. Having a clump of white hair, a plain face, and being deaf in one ear makes the village think this boy is a hero for being willing to marry Asta. Meanwhile Asta herself has an ominous feeling about her impending marriage. Gunnar is physically and mentally recovering from the accident that claimed the life of his mother, hurt his brother, and left him with only one arm. Erlend is the quiet theater boy who has always felt on the fringe of everything. Gunnar shares Asta’s apprehension of her impending marriage, as he can’t bear to see his lifelong friend burdened with the weight of unending domesticity. They all take solace in their work at the theater, where they can be themselves without reproach.

Asta’s betrothed attacks Gunnar over their rehearsal kisses and announces he’s witnessed Erlend and Gunnar being romantic, sending everyone’s lives into a tailspin. Asta breaks off her engagement, Erlend and Asta are shunned by their families for their actions, and all three teens retreat up the mountain to live in a small cabin. With Gunnar’s family facing losing their farm over unpaid taxes, the three hatch a plan to save the farm and create a safe oasis for themselves by winning the Christmas race.

This book has great depictions of underrepresented groups. From LGBTQ+ characters to disabled characters, it’s refreshing to see underrepresented groups get to be the heroes in the story. The author gives a note at the beginning of the book that states that while she knows in reality these three would’ve been exiled and completely shunned by their community, she put in a few supportive characters to show what the world could be. I loved both the acknowledgment and the side characters who surprised the main characters with their support.

Heath gives a realistic demonstration of the struggle of chronic pain and life altering injuries without placing blame or faulting the characters. All three characters have ‘complaints’, or things they struggle with. Gunnar has his physical injuries and the resulting mental struggles that result from them; Erlend struggles with anxiety; and Asta has partial deafness. I appreciate how the author shows these things as facets that have affected the characters without them coming across as faults or things that need to be fixed. Everyone deserves to see themselves represented in media without being treated as something that needs to be fixed.

The plot is well-paced, action wise, while still being leisurely. Though the stakes are high, the characters are so self-sufficient and smart that I wasn’t worried for their well-being or safety; if one plan didn’t work, I had faith they’d find another and keep working at it. It’s a great book to curl up with next to a roaring fire as snow falls softly outside and you sip from a mug of hot cocoa. The cozy winter vibe makes this a perfect choice for those who like to read season-focused books.

The world building here is exquisite, as the day to day hardship of life is understood without it being spelled out on every page. Heath does an excellent job of setting up the world in which these characters reside in a succinct and memorable way.

I really appreciate the balance shown of those who accepted the type of life these three had chosen had those that continually shunned them, exiled them, or simply refused to acknowledge what they were doing. It struck a delicate balance of reality with the unforgiving nature in 1904 of how those who were different or deviated from the norm were treated, and the hope that comes from finding your people, those who accept you and love you as you are.

The Reckless Kind is a thought provoking read that will have you dreaming of snowy landscapes and rooting for the main characters to see themselves the way those who love them see them.

Carly Heath’s The Reckless Kind will be available November 2, 2021 from Soho Teen. Thank you to the author for offering me an advanced e-arc such that I could share my honest thoughts.

Stay tuned for an interview with the author later this week!

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