The Glass Arrow
Genre: Dystopia, YA
Publication date: February 10, 2015
by Tor Teen
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.
When you hear the words “young adult dystopian”, what are the first things that come to your mind? Wait, don’t bother; I’m going to do a checklist for you:
☑ There is a special, teenage snowflake…
☑ … who insists she is average and normal…
☑ … but catches the attention of one or two or three love interests…
☑ … who without the help of experienced adults…
☑ … manages to topple an oppressive government/system.
Am I right, or am I right?
However, you need not fear because The Glass Arrow took a completely different direction, deciding to give this world-renowned checklist a big “fuck-you”. It may not look like at first, but this standalone YA dystopian is about an unfortunate girl who was stuck in an unfortunate, cruel world and strived to escape it in order to lead her own life in her own terms. There is no teenage character who tries to start and lead a rebellion, no tyrant or government with all the resources in the world tumbling down because of one person… this book isn’t that at all. And that is what basically makes it unique.
Meet Aiyana, whose auction name is Clover, who is trapped in a rather bleak post-apocalyptic world where women are dominated by men. They are seen as the inferior human being, passed on from one auctioneer to another, used only to (hopefully) breed more boys who will continue this vicious cycle. She was living so well in the mountains away from the city where all of these evil acts were taking place, when one day, she was tracked and hunted and brought to the breeding houses in order to be bought and played by rich businessmen and magnates. From then on, it becomes a story of survival – not for the human race, but for herself and for those she holds dear.
I have to admit that I didn’t expect this book to turn out the way it did. Having read so many post-apocalyptic dystopians before, I’ve expected that down the road, the characters would go, “This is a cause bigger than any of us. We have to change the world for the sake of mankind!” so color me surprised when the characters here looked out more for themselves. I found it refreshing and honestly realistic. Men and women alike were suffering from the hands of rich and entitled and greedy assholes, but when you’re powerless to do anything, when you do not have the resources and you only have yourself to count on, what can you do?
It’s easy to say, “We should be better than our human instincts and try to make a difference!” when we’re in the 21st century and we have laws protecting ourselves from basically being human trafficked, but the average, normal person in this book had none of that. You make eye contact when you shouldn’t? KILLED. You speak when you shouldn’t? KILLED. It’s a ruthless world where people take the slightest opportunities in order to climb an inch up the ladder, so it was refreshing to see a tough, strong-minded, and independent character like Aiyana who, instead of trying to change the world, tried to change her world instead. I mean, what exactly can you do against steroid-pumped, genetically-altered security guards? Or rich assholes who can buy the world ten times over? The best thing you can do is to fend your yourself, survive for yourself, and that’s what we end up seeing here.
It definitely was an intense experience as Aiyana struggled and fought her way towards freedom, against people who were far more powerful than her in more ways than one. Sometimes, when your life is on the line, you only need to trust your gut and instinct to survive. And oh, luck, too.
My only gripe with this book was that there were times when it was really dragging. It is a stand-alone, but it is quite slow-paced… like Aiyana goes into solitary confinement, and maaaan, there were so many pages about the same thing done over and over again, or about small details like her minute actions, so I was frustrated sometimes. I ended up skipping a lot of those dragging scenes and ended up missing almost nothing.
The romance was pretty good, too – it was slow and steady, where the characters learned more about each other first before diving into these fluffy feelings of love. Plus, their situations were pretty interesting, too, so it made for some intriguing dynamics.
All in all, a very solid YA dystopian that brings something new to the plate and to the genre. It has a determined, and sympathic heroine everyone will have no problem rooting for, a ruthless world that will send chills down people’s spines, a romance that is sweet and heart-warming, and a journey towards survival that will keep people on their toes. Not to be missed!