The Reckless Kind

Soho Teen. Nov. 2021. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781641292818.
Gr 9 Up–It’s 1904, near the Norwegian Sea, and budding actress Asta’s parents think that because of her single-sided deafness, she should marry horrid Nils. Asta, however, longs for queer-platonic intimacy beyond marriage with her one-armed best friend Gunnar and his secret boyfriend, the young theater director Erlend. When jealous Nils attacks and wounds Gunnar, the three friends flee to a remote farm. They abandon the theater, and their solution to financial precarity is for Asta to train as a farrier, tame a wild horse, and win a Christmas sleigh race. This emotionally grounded queer fairy tale is anchored by Asta and Erlend’s attempts to protect their shared object of desire. Asta is mischievous and scrappy; Erlend is princely. Both the blindness of his privilege and his greatness of heart allow him to abandon luxury for love. And Gunnar? Using Asta and Erlund—but not Gunnar—as narrators produces surprising revelations. The book excels when depicting Gunnar’s life with chronic pain, without miraculous cures. The writing and description are vivid; however, there’s an ambiguity as to whether Asta lives in a historical or a semi-fantastical context. The afterword provides useful information on the novel’s representation of medical conditions, yet sources for local details like Valkyrie sapphires and marriage horses would be enriching, not to mention information on the period’s queer culture.
VERDICT This work will tug the heartstrings of anyone who loved Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and wished Frozen lived up to its queer potential.

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