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A Girl Called Fearless



Compelling heroine drives gripping dystopian thriller.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Quotes from famous authors include Thoreau, Poe, and Dickinson. Basic gun safety rules are explained. The narrative and overall theme are a thought-provoking exploration of gender roles in society and how one group can gradually take all the power and personal freedom away from another group. It'll really get teens thinking about what can be done to make sure laws and policies don't prevent people from making their own decisions about their lives.

Positive messages

Follow your dreams, because even if you don't reach them you're going in the right direction. Truth matters. You can't go back and change what you've done, you can only keep moving forward. Choose the life partner who thinks you're beautiful just as you are, who wants to hear what you have to say, and who encourages you to follow your heart. You can do anything, so long as you don't let fear stop you.

Positive role models

Avie, who's 16 and a junior in high school, just wants what everyone wants: to be able to make her own choices in life. As her freedoms are taken away she starts to realize she'll have to take action to change the course of her life. She's not really fearless -- fear is a big obstacle to taking the first steps to freedom -- but she finds a way to be brave and to act in spite of her fears. She learns she's capable of more than she thinks, and she learns that getting herself free isn't enough: She has to take action to help change society so everyone is free. Although she has the opportunity and the desire, she realizes she's not ready for sex and decides to wait. Love interest Yates fights for social justice and is loyal and supportive. Her father's caring and loving but lets his business interests lead him to make catastrophic decisions. In the end, he tries to fix his mistakes. Avie's teacher Ms. Alexandra tries in secret to help her students undermine their oppressors.


An attempted kidnapping includes vague or very brief descriptions of punching and choking. A video showing police brutality is described vaguely. A teacher gives a student a hard slap in the face. A major character is shot, but there's no gore. A minor but important character sets herself on fire as a protest, and it's described briefly. Bad guys kill a goat as a threat, and it's described in some detail including spurting blood and the animal's death throes. A teen girl is grabbed violently by the hair and kissed forcibly. It's mentioned that lesbians are raped to "teach them a lesson."


Avie and Yates kiss a half dozen times, and all are briefly described without a lot of detail. They also make out a couple of times, again without much descriptive detail. They sleep together in a sleeping bag but decide not to have sex even though they both want to. A teen character gets pregnant and runs away. Girls as young as 16 are married off to strangers in exchange for money and are officially advised that they have to "do it" whenever their husband wants. There are two or three unpleasant kisses between Avie and the older man she's offically engaged to. Avie spends one night working as a geisha, and the clients grab at her and make inappropriate sexual advances. Avie mentions she's aware that men pay for sex, and a "whorehouse" is mentioned.


Strong language is infrequent but includes two or three instances of "ass," "pissed," "bitch," and "s--t." "Hell," "slut," "damn," "whore," and "ballsy" are used once each. A teen girl refers to fourth graders as "bitches."


Products mentioned once or twice each include Rolex Submariner, Land Rover, Mercedes, Taser, Mini Cooper, McDonald's, Walmart, Airstream, Disneyland, and Disney World.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink wine and beer with meals and at parties. It's implied after the fact that 16-year-old Avie had wine at a formal luncheon. Avie's father drinks "amber liquid" at home. Her uncle, who doesn't appear in the story, struggled with drug addiction in the past, and her father's company is trying to develop a cure for drug addiction. Walking through a casino, Avie smells beer and cigarettes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that A Girl Called Fearless is a gripping political thriller set in an alternative present that will get teens thinking about gender roles and discrimination; the importance of personal freedom and self-determination; and the safety of the nation's food supply. Some harsh realities of the male-dominated society include the restriction of women's access to information, education, and money; teen girls being instructed that they'll have to "do it" whenever their husbands want; and a teen girl setting herself on fire in protest on the steps of the capitol building. Main character Avie (nicknamed Fearless) is not really unafraid, but she finds the bravery she needs to escape her oppressors and help remove them from power. Strong language is infrequent and includes a few instances of "s--t," "ass," and "bitch." Violence also is infrequent and vague, except the killing of a goat is described in some detail. A major character is shot, but it's not gory. Avie and Yates kiss and make out a few times but decide to wait to have sex because Avie doesn't feel ready for it.

What's the story?

A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS presents an alternative present-day Los Angeles in which almost all women of child-bearing age have died in the past few years when a hormone that causes ovarian cancer is widely given to beef cattle. Under the guise of protecting the few remaining women and young girls, a movement called the Paternalists has come to power and implemented strict controls that prevent women from seeing the news, managing their own money, and getting an education. When 16-year-old Avie's father arranges her marriage to an older man she's never met, Avie reluctantly decides her only chance at freedom is to escape to Canada. Along the way she learns that the Paternalist movement goes deeper into the government than anyone knew and that they have even more plans to control women's lives. As a witness who could bring down the movement, Avie's run to freedom becomes a run for her life when she realizes they'll do anything to silence her.

Is it any good?


Catherine Linka's debut novel is a gripping political thriller. Heroine Avie's narrative voice is mature, believable, and compelling for teens and adults alike. Teens will easily relate to Avie's struggle for independence and the ability to decide her own future, and they'll admire her bravery and root for her as she makes her way to freedom.

The plot is well constructed and compelling, building to an exciting climax and hopeful ending. But the real strength of the novel is the way it'll get teens thinking about how to protect an individual's right to make her own decisions and about the balance of power between men and women in society. It's one of those rare accomplishments that raises important issues without being preachy, gets kids thinking, and entertains and thrills along the way.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how realistic the society portrayed in A Girl Called Fearless is. Which aspects seem as if they could really happen, and how? Do any seem far-fetched? Why?

  • How does A Girl Called Fearless fit in with dystopian fiction such as The Hunger Games and Divergent? How is it different? How is it similar? 

  • Does the Scarpanol scare -- wherein a lot of people have died because of a hormone given to beef cattle -- make you think about what you eat? How can we keep our food supply safe?

Book details

Author:Catherine Linka
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Topics:Great girl role models, High school
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:St. Martin's Griffin
Publication date:May 6, 2014
Number of pages:368
Publisher's recommended age(s):13 - 18
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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