Author: Francine Pascal

Publication: Pocket Books, 1999

Pages: 224

Overall Rating:   bth_35_zps7a173504[1]                     

Rating for Action: bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_2-star-rating-1_zps4cdc0d23[1]

Age Category:  13+

Brief Summary: Gaia Moore was born without a gene for fear.  She simply doesn’t know what it means to be afraid.  When she sees someone being mistreated, she jumps in to stop it.  Her dad made sure she was well trained and able to handle herself, so she’s a black belt in karate and skilled in a whole range of other martial arts.  She’s also abnormally strong and has super fast reflexes.

Gaia’s mother is dead and her father has disappeared.  She’s living with one of her dad’s old CIA colleagues in New York City.  It quickly becomes clear that Gaia is a social outcast.  She has no friends and few social skills.  And she spends most of her time prowling Washington Square Park hoping to get mugged, or playing chess in the park.

The story follows Gaia’s rocky relationship with the über popular Heather, her unwanted and yet electric attraction to Sam Moon, and her run-ins with a group of skinhead slashers in Washington Square Park.  Ultimately, all three of those story lines come together to destroy what little social life she has and leads her to a knock down drag out fight that could mean the end of the line for her crime fighting days.

Weaving through it all is a mysterious subplot about some person or agency who is watching Gaia and, for unknown reasons, trying to keep her safe.

Age of Main Character: 17

What I Liked the Most: Gaia is a great character and Pascal really brings her to life and gives her a very authentic voice.  She’s powerful, intelligent, and fearless, yet filled with self-doubt.  She doesn’t recognize her own beauty, has no social skills, and no idea how to interact with normal kids her age.  Taken all together, it makes for a vivid character that really jumps off the page.  You can feel the rage that drives her into the park, hoping and praying that someone will attack her and give her an excuse to lash out.

What I Liked the Least: Given the premise, that Gaia is a kick-ass girl who knows no fear and is on the rampage to take down street thugs that prey on the weak, it didn’t feel like there was really all that much action.  She only actually gets into three fights, and only one of them is in any way detailed or significant.  The book focuses mostly on Gaia’s relationships with other people, her inescapable attraction to Sam Moon, and her self-loathing.  That’s fine, and it builds her into a very powerful and vivid character, but as someone who was reading this as an action/adventure novel I didn’t feel like Pascal really fulfilled the premise of the story.

Also, Pascal has made Gaia almost too perfect.  She has no fear, she’s a martial arts master, she has incredible speed and focus, she strong, she’s off the charts intelligent, she’s a chess master, and she speaks multiple languages.  Sure, she’s socially inept, sees herself as a freak, and hates the way she looks, but she still has way too many skills.  It would have been better if Pascal had at least given her normal to slightly above average intelligence and dropped the multiple languages –which don’t play a role in the story anyway.

How Good was the Action?  Okay.  As I mentioned above, there are only three moments of real action in the story.  There’s one very brief fight at the beginning of the book.  There’s one where Gaia takes on three opponents, but honestly that one is less about the fight – very little of which is actually seen – then it is about a boy in a wheelchair who tries to ‘come to her rescue’ only to mess things up.  Most of the description is about his interference in the fight, his desire to save Gaia, and his shock when he sees her break into action and take out the thugs.

The last fight is the only one that’s significant.  It’s pretty well done, but I had some trouble taking it seriously.  Pascal has done such a good job painting Gaia as a superhero, an unstoppable fighting machine, and in the second fight – even with the distraction of the boy in the wheelchair – she takes out three thugs without breaking a sweat.  So when she had to confront five thugs at the end, I wasn’t really all that concerned for her and found it hard to believe when she actually got into as much trouble as she did.  It just didn’t fit with the character that Pascal had created.

How Engaging was the Story?   Gaia is a powerful character and her stormy relationships with Heather and Sam as well as her own intense self loathing make for a book that’s fairly hard to put down.  Even though it was much lighter on the action than I’d been expecting, I still found myself drawn into the story and into Gaia’s life.

Overall Assessment: Pascal is a former romance writer.  She did the Sweet Valley High series.  Fearless is clearly her first foray into action/adventure.  Whether or not it works, depends on what you’re in the mood for.  If you want a book that is primarily about relationships and frustrated romance with a small amount of kick butt action on the side, then this is a great book.  If you’re looking for a gripping adventure story full of fights, chases, and near escapes then you probably want to give this book a pass.

Profanity: Yes.  There’s fairly frequent use of the ‘B…’ word among others.

Sex: Yes.  There’s definitely a fair bit of kissing.  There’s a pretty hot and heavy attraction between Gaia and Sam.  There’s Gaia’s step mom who dresses in nearly nonexistent miniskirts.  And there’s a subplot about a gang member and an unidentified woman who’s using him to gain information about Gaia.  She dresses in very provocative clothing and there’s a lot of flirting and mild fooling around between the two of them.

Violence: Some.  Gaia kicks and punches a few people.  There’s a slasher in the park, though we never actually witness anyone being slashed.  And the final fight is reasonably graphic and involves some blood.

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