Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
In my endless hunt for books with good disability rep, I found this one recommended in several places. I’m not usually one for historical fiction, but I was glad to see a disability book in a genre other than realistic fiction. To my surprise, it became a rare 5-star read for me—tender, heartfelt, and so unabashedly queer and disabled!
Enjoy this week’s review!
The Reckless Kind – Carly Heath
Norway, 1904. Even though marriage is what traditional society expects of her, Asta has no interest in marriage, and especially not in Nils, the rude boy her mother has set her up with. Her mother sees a life of domesticity as her only path, but Asta is determined to carve her own way. After Nils’ recklessness cements her wish to not marry, she runs away with her two friends, Gunnar and Erlend. They make a life caring for Gunnar’s family farm, but with the money running out and the rest of their village against them, it will take all of their strength to create their own destinies.
TW/CW (from Carly Heath, inside book): ableism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, suicidal ideations, violence, descriptions of injury, references to alcoholism, abuse, and self-harm
what if 😳 I melted down a priceless family heirloom 😳😳 and made it into a prosthetic arm for you 😳😳😳 (and we were both boys)
I picked up The Reckless Kind for the promise of queer and disabled rep, but I didn’t expect it to become a 2022 favorite of mine so quickly! It’s rare that I enjoy historical fiction this much, but this novel was a success on every front imaginable.
The diversity of The Reckless Kind is what drew me in, and it was such a central and beautiful aspect of this novel! This book focuses on not one, but four characters who are disabled—Asta has Waardenburg syndrome (includes single-sided deafness), Gunnar has Brown-Séquard syndrome and has a prosthetic arm, Erlend has an anxiety disorder, and Fred, one of the secondary characters, has Post-Concussion syndrome! On top of that, Asta is asexual, Gunnar and Erlend are in an mlm relationship, and the three of them are in a queerplatonic triad! Does it get any better than that? I think not. Just what I needed as a queer, disabled reader.
Each and every aspect of said diversity is handled so thoughtfully and lovingly; you can tell from the first page just how much love and care Heath put into writing this story. Even though their traditional society looks down upon them for a number of reasons, the journey these characters take to make their own way is heartwarming to read. Everything from the special modifications on Gunnar’s car to the life they carve out for themselves on the farm is filled with such palpable determination and love that only a bunch of outsiders making their own way can make me feel. Found family trope for the win, as always.
All of that would work fantastically on its own, but it’s Heath’s characters that made The Reckless Kind truly shine. Asta was an absolute DELIGHT. Just an absolute sweetheart. Even though the world has beaten her down so much, she has this consistent spunk and contagious kindness to her that she brings everywhere she goes. I loved the way she cared for all of the animals on the farm, and her story is sure to resonate with so many. Gunnar and Erlend were equally wonderful, and they balanced each other out perfectly, what with Erlend’s theatrical charm and Gunnar’s droll, self-deprecating humor. Their relationship made me giddy more than not; I loved how Heath depicted all the messiness of relationships, as well as two characters who did their best to work with each other’s problems. All three of them together made for the recipe for a near-perfect book.
Through it all, Heath presents a story of persistence despite the odds and the love it breeds between outsiders. All three of the characters faced parents, peers, and others who shunned them for parts of themselves, but this book was all about self-love and living in a world that doesn’t love you. It’s fiercely queer and disabled, and it’s the perfect story for anyone who has ever felt like the world is against them.
All in all, a tender, powerful, and heartwarming story of disability, queerness, and making your own way that quickly found its way to my 2022 favorites. 5 stars!
The Reckless Kind is a standalone and Carly Heath’s debut novel.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!