May Contain Spoilers
I love a good dystopian, so when I saw A Girl Called Fearless, I thought I’d give it a shot. The premise seemed interesting, and I was curious about how the world would look through the protagonist’s eyes. Ten years ago, a chemical used in cattle feed was found to be the cause of a deadly cancer that killed every woman in their child bearing years. Only young girls and old women were spared, as well as a handful of women who had already suffered, and been cured, of reproductive cancers. With so many victims of the disease, and medications to treat it in short supply, men were forced to stand by as their wives and daughters succumbed to the deadly tumors invading their bodies.
Avie is sixteen years old. She comes from a wealthier household, and attends an exclusive prep school in California. Her father has promised that she can finish college before he’ll arrange a Contract for her, which will bind her to her husband. When her father’s company faces bankruptcy, however, he contracts her to Jessop Hawkins, a millionaire who hopes to start a career in politics. Panicked at the thought of being Hawkins’ wife, Avie makes a run for Canada and the safety of its borders. Along the way, she gets caught up in a protest against the repressive government, and unwittingly holds the key to its downfall.
I loved the premise of this story, but the economics didn’t make much sense to me. Avie’s father sells her to Hawkins for 50 million dollars. Fifty. Million. DOLLARS. If girls regularly earn that kind of payback, you’d think that their guardians would treat them a little better. Having a lot of girls in this situation would make sound economic sense. Since there are so few women, there is a gold mine in having daughters, but that didn’t seem to be the case. It is suspected that Avie’s friend was killed by her older husband, but only after producing a son. It didn’t make any sense, in this context, for any man to risk injuring the proverbial golden goose. He spent a fortune on this possession, and if he has daughters, he can sell them when they are older. If he has a lot of sons, he has to spend another fortune helping him acquire a wife. Even if a woman was so incompatible, in this world it is perfectly accepted to turn around and sell the woman’s contract to someone else, so why, why, why would any man kill his cash cow?
With women of childbearing age in such short supply, men feared for the safety of their daughters. The Paternalist Movement was born from that, and this political group has been slowly stripping away women’s rights for the last ten years. Avie’s dreams of attending college come crashing down when the group pushes through a law prohibiting women from going to college, for the sake of their safety. Avie already lives in a cocoon. She has a bodyguard who drives her to school and lurks around in the background, watching over her and making sure she and her friends don’t cause any trouble. She is constantly under surveillance; everywhere she goes, including her own home, is monitored with security cameras. She’s not allowed to speak to Yates, her best friend from childhood, because it’s not proper for unrelated men and women to speak with each other. Young girls are routinely kidnapped, so they aren’t allowed to go anywhere without security, though I wonder about the lives and fates of girls from more meager backgrounds. Could their fathers afford to employ bodyguards for their daughters? Did they go to school? I don’t feel that these questions were adequately answered.
After Avie’s father informs her that she’s been contracted, Yates urges her to run. He’s part of Exodus, a group seeking to overthrow the Paternalists and restore the freedoms that have been denied to women. Avie resists at first, but after she meets Hawkins, she’s terrified. He’s a horrible man, and she’s afraid of what will happen to her once she’s his. When she discovers that one of her friends from school is spying on her, at Hawkins’ direction, she realizes that running is the only option left to her. With Yates’ assistance, she flees, knowing that Hawkins will never rest until his Retrievers have hunted her down. There are rumors that the US government is withholding needed medical exports into Canada until they close their borders to US refugees, so the clock is ticking. Avie has to get to the border soon, or her only escape will be cut off.
I couldn’t put the book down for the 50 percent. After Avie thoughtlessly imperils the safe house she’s staying at, I couldn’t help but reflect about how short-sighted and impulsive she was. I wasn’t even sure she was running for the right reasons any more. Was she fleeing her contract with Hawkins for herself, or to be with Yates? Her motivation for her actions started to bother me, and she seemed shallow and thoughtless, even given her over-indulged childhood.
Overall, A Girl Called Fearless is a great concept, but it faltered in its execution. I didn’t ever connect with Avie, and I constantly questioned her motivations. Was she acting for herself, or was she hoping to be with Yates?
Review copy provided by publisher
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.