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The Glass Arrow

Review

The Glass Arrow

The future America envisioned in THE GLASS ARROWwould repulse most 21st century readers; protagonist Aya’s world suffers from disease (most memorably a plague that makes you cry blood), pollution, food shortages, eugenics-gone-haywire, religious intolerance, plummeting fertility rates and rampant sexism. Women’s rights have rescinded into the distant past --- the city’s wealthy (“magnates”) have even revived the slave trade, with gender, not race, condemning young girls to lifetimes of servitude. Despite the city’s flagrant human rights violations, however, the surrounding mountains harbor small, isolated havens of “free women.” In these idyllic villages, women’s rights, religion, and the environment still flourish. So when trackers --- thugs who capture “feral” girls for auction --- rip Aya away from her family, our protagonist will risk anything to return.

While the city’s abundant shortcomings --- including medical, environmental, ideological and culinary --- may intensify suspense, the stark contrast between Aya’s beatific village and the capital’s total degradation makes the protagonist seem a tad too Christ-like. Furthermore, though author Kristen Simmons enlivens the “girl-trade” through vivid details (skin-tight dresses, a “weight shifter,” and “private screening rooms” for girls and their perspective buyers), these… um, kinkier aspects of the book, at times, cheapen the novel’s deeper meaning of women’s rights.

Simmons delivers the primary plotlines (Aya’s escape from the city) with hair-raising clarity and breakneck pacing.

Throughout the book, Simmons references the titular glass arrow through the legends of Aya’s village, the city’s preponderance of green-glass buildings, the capital’s name, Glasscaster and more, endowing the metaphorical weapon with layer after layer of symbolic meaning. Furthermore, Simmons delivers the primary plotlines (Aya’s escape from the city) with hair-raising clarity and breakneck pacing, yet she also hints at several tertiary subplots that imbue this action-heavy novel with some welcome complexity.

As a 17-year-old girl, I more than appreciate a romantic subplot, but Aya’s relationship with fellow outcast Kiran seems to contradict the novel’s theme; if THE GLASS ARROWaims to dispute the stereotypical view of women as dependent on men, why have Aya rely on a love interest for the first half of the book? Or why couldn’t Aya have formed a platonic bond with Kiran, rather than a romantic one? Though Simmons portrays the Aya-Kiran relationship with refreshing realism (he throws a knife at her head the first time they meet), the inclusion of any romantic subplot doesn't always harmonize with the book’s message of female strength, smarts and self-sufficiency. On the other hand, the progression of the Aya-Kiran romance --- not to mention Aya’s lessening need for control over, well, everything ---endows Aya’s character with some much-needed dynamism.

They say there’s no such thing as the perfect novel, and THE GLASS ARROW doesn’t disprove that axiom. However, the novel’s suspenseful pacing, endearing protagonist (even if she is a hair impulsive) and ardent message of equality more than atone for its few defects.

Reviewed by Alison S., Teen Board member on January 22, 2015

The Glass Arrow
by Kristen Simmons

  • Publication Date: February 10, 2015
  • Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult 13+
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Teen
  • ISBN-10: 0765336618
  • ISBN-13: 9780765336613