Saturday, July 16, 2011

MG Dystopia: Fearless by Tim Lott

Publisher: Candlewick
Date: 2007
Format: paperback
Acquired: from BookMooch
Read: for my own enjoyment
Pages: 263
Reading time: two days

From GoodReads: In the not-too-distant future, the world is safe from terrorists, the streets are clean, and girls labeled "juvies" or "mindcrips" have been hidden away behind the smartly painted exterior of the City Community Faith School. Their birth names are forgotten and replaced with a letter and number, but they give each other nicknames like Tattle or Stench or Little Fearless. As they slave away at chores, Little Fearless, who is actually the bravest girl in the school, tells the other girls stories, stories about the day their families will return for them. Little Fearless’s own hope and conviction spur her on a dangerous adventure — a bold and unthinkable plan that will either save the imprisoned girls or mean the end of Little Fearless herself, or both.

My review: Fearless is a book that you either hate or love. I came out on the "love" side. It's definitely the best children's (as opposed to YA) dystopia that I've read, reminding me  of a kid-oriented version of 1984 and Brave New World. The writing style, which is distant (like good floating-on-a-cloud distant, not bad disconnected-from-readers distant), reminds me of the "magical" books I've read this year, Noah Barleywater Runs Away, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and An Atlas of Impossible Longing - those "odd," genre-bending books whose tales and storytelling are like nothing you've ever read and remain imprinted in your mind as unique reads.

Plot-wise, Fearless isn't exciting. Fans of The Hunger Games and similar dystopias will be disappointed by the lack of action. But aren't dystopias meant to have deeper commentary, anyway? Fearless carries a lot of good messages, messages about identity, community, truth, bravery, and inner strength. (It also has some things to say about politics and religion, but these are more submerged.) The novel isn't perfect - at times the pointed explanations and stilted dialogue can be annoying - but it goes down in my mind as one of those rare reads that's different from any other and that I will highly recommend to fellow readers.

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