The Pakistani teen blogger simply sought to get an education. But she became a symbol of defiance against militants, empowering young women worldwide.
The story of Malala Yousufzai, 15, an outspoken critic of the Taliban, is full of contradictions.
Tragic, yet triumphant.
Unafraid, yet battling one of the world's most feared terror groups.
An old soul, yet just a kid.
For years, the young activist has been at odds with the Taliban over her education crusade. She has openly defied the group's teachings on educating girls and encouraged her peers to do the same.
In an attempt to silence her, militants stormed her school van in October, barked out her name and put a bullet in her head.
But the attack only amplified her voice and rallied a world of supporters to her side.
CNN.com readers voted her as the second-most intriguing person of 2012, days after she was short-listed for Time's Person of the Year. U.S. President Barack Obama came first in both lists.
Malala's global recognition has come with a price.
While most girls her age relish their teen years, she is undergoing grueling treatment in Britain after the shooting.
She lives under constant threats for going to school in the conservative Swat Valley region in northwest Pakistan, where women are repressed under the militants' strict interpretation of Islam.
Despite the dangers, Malala blogged ferociously about her dream of learning without fear. She used television interviews, documentaries and took to the streets to challenge the iron hand on women.
She accused the Taliban of thriving on ignorance.
"Where in the Quran does it say that girls should not be educated?" she asked last year. "I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up."
Her role as an activist led to the attack on the van carrying her and other girls home from school, two of whom were also hurt, but not as severely.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
"We do not tolerate people like Malala speaking against us," a Taliban spokesman later said.
More than two months after the assassination attempt, Malala is still undergoing treatment. She went from an intensive care unit in Pakistan to a hospital in the British city of Birmingham.
Before she left home, she was unconscious. She now walks, writes and reads.
After she regains her strength, she will undergo more surgeries.
It is astounding that she suffered no major brain or nerve damage from the shooting, her doctors say.
Her story of defiance has sparked marches worldwide demanding girls' education.