In Carly Heath’s debut YA novel, set on a small Norwegian island in 1904, a trio of young people reject their community’s traditional values and strive to live together.
Asta Hedstrom, who is deaf in one ear, must either marry or face a future as an impoverished spinster. She has resigned herself to marrying Nils Tennfjord, a boy she does not love. Her friend Gunnar Fuglestad has just survived a horrific accident that killed his mother, concussed his brother and required that Gunnar’s arm be amputated. His family’s farm will also soon be lost because of unpaid taxes. Meanwhile, Gunnar’s boyfriend, Erlend Fournier, has been kicked out of his wealthy home for refusing to abandon Gunnar.
After a violent altercation leaves Gunnar with a spinal injury and unable to move his legs, Erlend purchases a cabin for the two of them to live in. With little money of her own and no employable skills, Asta rejects Nils’ proposal and joins them, deciding that she’ll learn the blacksmithing trade with Gunnar’s brother. The trio’s best chance at survival is to win a local horse race and its hefty cash prize, but they’ll have to go up against the best and most dangerous thoroughbreds in the region.
Alternating between Asta’s and Erlend’s points of view, The Reckless Kind explores the bravery and brutality required to carve out unconventional paths in a time in which otherness was shunned and people were rejected to the fringes of society because of their sexuality, mental illness, religious beliefs or disabilities. Heath takes great care in conveying Asta and Erlend’s optimism in spite of Gunnar’s harrowing physical challenges, even reassuring readers in an author’s note, “No tragic ending here.”
Readers who enjoyed the equestrian culture of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races will enjoy the heart-pounding horse race in the final act, but Heath’s thoughtful portrayal of headstrong teenagers who successfully defy the expectations of their time has broad appeal.