Published by Tor Teen on February 10, 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
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*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.
The Handmaid’s Tale meets Blood Red Road in Glass Arrow, the story of Aya, who lives with a small group of women on the run from the men who hunt them, men who want to auction off breeding rights to the highest bidder.
In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning.
Women are property
The Glass Arrow features a dystopian society where women are property and the female population is kept under control by a census where female babies are put to death whenever the census gets too high.
O no, not I! – I will survive!
Aya, named ‘Clover’ by her captors is a 16 year old survivor of the wilds. She was born and raised in the wild and was captured by trackers and sold to a facility called “The Garden” where women are housed and sold, usually for breeding rights so that the man purchasing will hopefully get a baby boy from the transaction. Afterwards it’s common for the women to be turned back into the facilities to go through the process all over again. Purity is highly valued and fertile women from the wilds even more so because women from the city seem to have infertility problems. The tone of this book is dark and heavy when it comes to the theme of abuse, sexism and sexual assault.
Aya is determined not to be sold and tries time and again to escape the facility. The other girls in the Garden all seem to accept the way things are – which is a tad unsettling for me, and even more so for Aya. Her latest plan to avoid auction day lands her with 30 days in the solitary yard where she meets and befriends a young man, Kiran who is a member of the lowest class in society which doesn’t speak. It’s interesting to see the progression of their friendship during this time but ultimately another auction day quickly approaches and ends up with her sold.
Slow growing friendship that becomes something more
Many romances in young adult are of the instant variety. Thankfully this one was most definitely not. Aya has trust issues and heck, issues with the idea of any man getting close to her in a physical way. So right there we have a big hurtle to overcome between these two. I loved the way their relationship was done and how it was so unlike many of the YA romances I’ve read in the past. It was not overwhelming, indeed to me it wasn’t even really a “romance” so much as a deepening of friendship and trust that would someday grow into more.
But if trust was a thing you could hold in your hand, I would give mine to you. I’d let you have it forever and never ask for it back.
Sounds questionable to me
Ultimately, I waffled on believing and not believing the premise of this dystopian society but in a way that’s a good thing because it really provoked quite a bit of thought and discussion afterwards. It is also however much of what kept me from enjoying The Glass Arrow more. The world building felt too vague and some of the background history kept prompting questions and disbelief on my part. I assume this could have been our world but even if it isn’t – historical basis isn’t adequately given for why women ended up being considered so vile that a population control census needed to be enacted. Even if a large number of men wanted this I think the overall population of both men and women would still be able to overpower the ones that wanted to bring such craziness about. Moving through the story I had to forcibly swallow my disbelief and that was not easy to do. Granted women have always had a rough go of things all over the world and in some places today are still treated beyond poorly. Yes, some countries even kill female babies because male children are more desirable. So, the overall premise is believable when I look at it from those perspectives and yet I still don’t know why I had such a hard time swallowing it. Perhaps its because I believe that if a country ever moved forward away from that I doubt they would move backwards towards it, which is what I feel happened in the case of this society – that women weren’t always treated that way but now they are – and the reasoning given felt flimsy.
Just a girl getting by in the world
Most young adult dystopian or even fantasy books tend to pit the heroine against the entirely of that society or some strong governing force. While here we have a little bit of that, it is delivered not as Aya trying to conquer and overthrow that force but simply survive and escape it. I have to give it to the author on this point that I did not expect it to go in that direction and was pleasantly surprised by it. If you’re looking for a dystopian read that is a bit different in that respect and has a solid relationship built on a slow building of trust then The Glass Arrow may be what you are looking for.