Published by St. Martin's Griffin on May 6, 2014
Avie Reveare has the normal life of a privileged teen growing up in L.A., at least as normal as any girl’s life is these days. After a synthetic hormone in beef killed fifty million American women ten years ago, only young girls, old women, men, and boys are left to pick up the pieces. The death threat is past, but fathers still fear for their daughters’ safety, and the Paternalist Movement, begun to "protect" young women, is taking over the choices they make. Like all her friends, Avie still mourns the loss of her mother, but she’s also dreaming about college and love and what she’ll make of her life. When her dad "contracts" her to marry a rich, older man to raise money to save his struggling company, her life suddenly narrows to two choices: Be trapped in a marriage with a controlling politician, or run. Her lifelong friend, student revolutionary Yates, urges her to run to freedom across the border to Canada. As their friendship turns to passion, the decision to leave becomes harder and harder. Running away is incredibly dangerous, and it’s possible Avie will never see Yates again. But staying could mean death.From Catherine Linka comes this romantic, thought-provoking, and frighteningly real story, A Girl Called Fearless, about fighting for the most important things in life—freedom and love.
A Girl Called Fearless is one of the more disturbing dystopian novels that I’ve read. As with any dystopia, while reading it, I ask myself, “Could this actually happen?” I had a hard time accepting the reality of the society in this story, and while it disturbed me, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I might have otherwise.
Ten years ago, a synthetic hormone in the U.S. food supply wiped out the vast majority of women of child-bearing age. As a result, the Paternalist Movement was born, with the goal of rebuilding the population. In this society, young girls are a valuable commodity, and getting them to an age where they can begin popping out babies is the highest priority. I can actually understand this, but I had a harder time understanding the means by which the Paternalist Movement would achieve this. Girls cannot go to college. They’re expected to stay home to cook and clean and tend to their husbands, leaving the best jobs available to men. High school math and science classes are replaced with lessons in baking cupcakes. Fathers fiercely protect their daughters’ virginity in order to sell them to the highest bidder.
That’s where the story started to lose me. I suppose that stifling a girl’s desire for an education and a career MAY make her more likely to submit to this kind of treatment. But it’s probably equally as likely that a girl would rebel against these rules, and then what happens? Should she be imprisoned? Should her husband be allowed to rape her in order to impregnate her?
A Girl Called Fearless doesn’t really get into these details. Instead, we have to accept that the U.S. government and the general population is O.K. with treating girls and young women like baby-making factories. There are people who resist this idea, including Avie, the sixteen-year-old main character, but enough are on board to make this the law of the land. I had a hard time believing this, especially since this major societal transformation occurs only ten years after the epidemic.
Avie’s father is part of this transformation when he signs a contract to sell his daughter to the highest bidder for $50 million. And he’s not the only one, as this is standard practice for fathers. Would this actually happen? COULD this actually happen? Would a father who has spent more than a decade being a loving parent suddenly decide to sell his young daughter to a disgusting older man? Avie encounters people who are opposed to this movement and who offer to help her escape across the border to Canada. A teacher. A gynecologist. A priest. In fact, it seems the only people who are actually in favor of the movement are money-hungry fathers and lecherous old men.
There are some interesting ideas in A Girl Called Fearless, and a disease that wipes out young women would certainly be disastrous. I just wish that the resulting dystopian society was easier to believe.
Note: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.