The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons
Published by Tor Teen
February 10, 2015
SUMMARY: 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.
The storytelling: Kristen Simmons is a great writer. Her writing has the tight, conciseness of a short story, with the expansive and deep world-building of a fantasy arc. The pacing of each chapter, each section of the novel is incredibly well done. The exposition is never boring, the action always leaves you breathless, and the drama will tug on your heartstrings.
The plot: The action gets going from page 1. You are immediately thrown into Aya’s head, as she runs away from Trackers who are trying to capture her to sell at auction in the city. I wasn’t expecting where the novel would go at first, with Aya being taken in to the Garden and not immediately sold. Aya’s time in the Garden, a place where girls are confined, trained and prepped for sale, was fascinating and crucial to the rest of the story.
By the second chapter, Aya has already spent 107 days in the Garden. Simmons could have spent an entire book detailing Aya’s time there; instead she chose to show us what Aya has learned from captivity, how she has changed, and to move right into the plot points that actually move the story along: when she meets Kiran.
The characters: Simmons has created some great characters in The Glass Arrow. Aya, known in the Garden as Clover, is a badass. She’s grown up in the mountains, and has had to care for her family, hunt and fish, and hide from Trackers since she was born. The girl has awesome survival skills, and she is clever about putting them to use. Aya is also very adaptable, a trait which we won’t often see in YA female protagonists. Aya can adapt and change to any situation, using her skills in new and innovative ways when most girls would freeze and hold back in fear. I really respect Aya, and saw a lot of myself in her. I wish I was even half as badass as she is!
“I’d rather be a wolf than a girl any day.” – Aya
Aya meets the mute Driver boy, Kiran, on her 5th jaunt into solitary “confinement.” Kiran approaches Aya and manages to befriend her. They develop a bond, and Aya can interpret Kiran’s gestures and expressions into speech. She never really knows if Kiran can understand everything she says – no one knows what language the Drivers speak, if any – but she spills her heart and soul to the boy, anyway. They spend many nights sitting side by side and “talking” as Aya is chained up in solitary. Kiran develops a lot as a character, and I really like who he becomes. He has an unexpected depth that readers will love to explore.
“And I feel it happen–silent and study as a feather, a piece of my soul becomes his.”
Last, but not least: Brax. During her first period in solitary, Aya rescues and cares for a wolf pup, which she names Brax. Over the 10 or so months Aya spends at the Garden, Brax grows up and becomes her best friend. Aya actually longs for time in solitary so that she can spend time with Brax, the clever, highly intelligent and endearing wolf companion.
“They’ve forgotten, or maybe they’ve never learning, that their worth is not determined by how much a man wants them.”
The Verdict: Simmons has created an eerily realistic dystopian world then thrown her characters into the toughest situation they could imagine, and they fight for their freedom harder than anything. The Glass Arrow is a masterpiece of feminist fiction that teens and adults will love.