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 1904 on an island just west of Norway, and Asta Hedstrom doesn’t want to marry her odious betrothed, Nils. But her mother believes she should be grateful for the possibility of any domestic future, given her single-sided deafness, unconventional appearance, and even stranger notions. Asta would rather spend her life performing in the village theater with her 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 to their families, they have one shot at gaining enough kroner to secure their way of life: win the village’s annual horse race.
Despite Gunnar’s increasing misgivings, Asta and Erlend intend to prove this unheard-of arrangement will succeed. Asta trains as a blacksmith; Erlend cares for recovering Gunnar. But as race day approaches, the villagers’ hateful ignorance only grows stronger. With this year’s competition proving dangerous for the trio, Asta and Erlend soon find they face another equally deadly peril: the possibility of losing Gunnar, and their found family, forever.
Loved it. Absolutely compelling. So much adversity and strife, but also so much love and compassion too.
There is so much to look at and examine within the book, from LGBTQ rep, disability, gender nonconformity, social status, misogyny, prejudice, religion, mental health… you might think, ‘my god that is an overload’, but actually, the author writes it so well it flows together to create one epic look at life for these characters in the period and place setting.
The characters are fab. Asta is brave, headstrong, unwilling to be held back by her gender or disability. Gunnar and Erlend are true gentlemen, their developing relationship is beautiful, although seeing them go through some really harrowing times together is heartbreaking at times. Even Gunnar’s drunkard father has an endearing side and you are drawn to them as an unconventional family unit.
The plot is great, after a tragedy on the Gunnar’s family farm events seem to spiral and get worse and worse for Gunnar, Erlend and Asta. But throughout the three pull together and support each other on a foundation of love and respect which I found so emotive and touching.
The author’s writing is fantastic, transporting you in time and place to the world as it was in 1904 Scandanavia, and yet has a very modern feel to it (I know I contradict myself), the characters are incredibly relatable today, although based in history. I was never bored or waiting for the action, the book is well-paced and balanced with action and drama to keep you hooked.
Thank you so much to Soho Teen and Edelweiss for the e-arc to review!
Carly Heath (she/they) earned her BA from San Francisco State University and her MFA from Chapman University. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Carly teaches design, art, theater, and writing for various colleges and universities. She spends all her time and most her money tending to a menagerie of rescued farm animals. The Reckless Kind is her first novel.