He Will Go Fearless

He Will Go Fearless

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by Laurie Lawlor

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Immediately following the Civil War, Billy, a fifteen-year-old runaway, sets out for the gold fields of Virginia City in treacherous Montana Territory. Good fortune for Billy is not so much about finding gold, though, as it is about finding his father. Finding the truth. Before crossing the Missouri River to embark on his journey, two cunning travelers commandeer


Immediately following the Civil War, Billy, a fifteen-year-old runaway, sets out for the gold fields of Virginia City in treacherous Montana Territory. Good fortune for Billy is not so much about finding gold, though, as it is about finding his father. Finding the truth. Before crossing the Missouri River to embark on his journey, two cunning travelers commandeer Billy's life savings of twenty-nine dollars and two bits and convince him to join them as ox-drivers on a team headed with supply wagons for Montana. At first, being paid to make the trip doesn't sound half bad to Billy — but he quickly discovers that truth never comes cheaply.

The arduous journey tests him for all he's worth. Across miles of arid plains, wild rivers, and steep mountains, Billy struggles to tame his unruly oxen and his own dangerous passions. He must find his place among unlikely traveling companions on a trek through hostile country that conceals Chief Red Cloud's warriors as well as armed highwaymen. Billy's rite of passage challenges everything he knows about survival and loss, reconciliation and discovery.

In this vivid historical novel inspired by the real diaries of photographer William Henry Jackson, award-winning author Laurie Lawlor takes readers on a sweeping quest through the perilous old West.

Editorial Reviews

Fifteen-year-old Billy has always been restless and a troublemaker because he feels that he does not fit in with his post-Civil War St. Joseph, Missouri, family. When he finds out that his mother is not his real mother, he steals his stepfather's money and heads west to Virginia City, Montana Territory, to find his real father. Almost immediately, he is tricked by swindlers Jackson and Rock into joining up with a bullwhacking team that is driving oxen along the Oregon Trail to Virginia City. Along the trail, he is let down repeatedly by the adults surrounding him, and eventually he learns, with the help of a mentor on the team, to become more self-reliant. Although this book includes fascinating and vivid details about the West and hints at the many dangers that faced travelers on the trails west, such as the conflict between Billy and the Pike County boys, most story lines never develop, leaving many dangling threads. It is further exacerbated when the plot ends abruptly, with no resolution to Billy's outer conflict of finding his father. Despite these flaws, the pure western flavor of the book will attract readers who appreciate the genre or are looking to get a sense of life in the Old West. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Simon & Schuster, 224p., Ages 11 to 18.
—Rebecca Hogue Wojahn
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Set in the Wild West, Fearless tells the story of Billy, 15, who is on a quest to find the father he has never known. Misunderstood at home, he leaves Saint Joe, MO, after learning vital information about his past. He is swindled by two enterprising strangers; after they help themselves to his money, Billy is compelled to join them as they hook up with teamsters transporting supplies by oxen over the dangerous trail to Virginia City, Montana Territory. Along the way, mysterious Frenchy hires on and teaches Billy about oxen and life. Hard work makes the teen grow from a boy into a man. Readers witness him climbing a sheer rock face in search of a horse and driving oxen along narrow mountain passes and through rushing rivers. While he is a keen, thoughtful observer of his companions, Billy is also a young man of action. He finds his own way in a world with few rules and no one to trust but himself. Danger, adventure, and survival combine to make this a richly detailed story. By the end, the teen has not reached his intended destination, leaving readers to wonder whether a sequel is forthcoming. If not always fearless, Billy is certainly courageous. Boys, especially, will enjoy this book.-Christina Stenson-Carey, Albany Public Library, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From snake-oil salesmen to a stormy Platte River crossing, Lawlor's coming-of-age tale creates an authentic sense of place in the aftermath of the Civil War. Fifteen-year old troublemaker Billy learns the truth about his parentage and plans to travel to Virginia City in Montana Territory to meet the father he never met. His money is swindled away and his plans are changed when he encounters conniving yet affable Jackson and his hot-tempered sidekick Rock on the steamboat ride out of St. Joseph, Mo. Under Jackson's silver-tongued influence, Billy soon finds himself one of Whitman's "fearless" oxen tamers, driving a team on the western trail. Some of the dialogue between the adults is stilted and formal, the pacing in certain places plods much like Billy's stubborn cattle and the resolution is less than satisfactory. Yet it is Billy himself, his timeless aspirations and his mentorship by the enigmatic loner Frenchy that warms the heart and affirms the power of perseverance and hope. A worthwhile rite of passage. (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.00(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Laurie Lawlor has published more than thirty books for children and
young adults. Magnificent Voyage: An American Adventurer on Captain James
Cook's Final Expedition
was a VOYA Nonfiction Honor Book called
"fascinating" by the New York Times. Helen Keller: Rebellious
was named an American Library Association Notable Book and a Best
Book for Young Adults. Shadow Catcher: The Life and Work of Edward S.
won a Golden Kite Honor Award and the Carl Sandburg Award. Ms.
Lawlor lives in Evanston, Illinois.

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He Will Go Fearless 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Billy has helped himself to his step-father's money, and run away from a home that he could no longer tolerate. St. Joseph, Missouri, is a long way from Virginia City, but he plans to go there to find the father that he doesn't remember. The fifteen-year-old is vulnerable, and two hard-case strangers, Jackson and Rock, manage to swindle him out of his money, but he joins them as a driver for a company transporting goods west by oxen.

Life is hard on the trail, and especially so for an inexperienced boy on his own. He learns how to handle the huge, obstinate animals, and gains the skills needed to travel the rough trails of the great plains and the frontier. The drivers suffer thirst, heat, storms, unending labor, and the threat of Indian attacks. The rough men who are Billy's companions are not always easy to get along with, but one man, Frenchy, befriends Billy to help and teach him as he leaves childhood behind.

Disagreements among the men lead to Rock's leaving the caravan, and then Frenchy's disappearance. The trail bosses' horse bolts in fear, and Billy sets out on his own to find and bring back the horse. The tension builds to a surprising climax.

A story rich in historical detail, with compelling characters and fast-paced adventure, it will appeal to even reluctant readers. Billy is an exciting new character that teens will love. This exciting book was hard to put down...I'll be watching for more from this talented writer, and the ending did leave an opening for a possible sequel.