Review: The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Glass Arrow by Kristen SimmonsThe Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons
Published by Tor Teen on February 10, 2015
Genres: Adventure, Dystopian
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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one-half-stars

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.

At this point, I’m largely uninterested in dystopian fiction. I burned out big time in the onslaught that followed Divergent. It’s not even that I dislike the genre, but that I no longer had much of an idea what the genre actually was and that so many of them weren’t good. Simmons’ Article 5 was among the handful that I liked. As such, I was still looking forward to The Glass Arrow, especially due to the comparison to The Handmaid’s Tale, which has been oft-imitated in YA, but never well. Unfortunately, The Glass Arrow started well and then descended into the same sort of cliches that made me tire of YA dystopian novels.

For the first half of the novel, I was enjoying The Glass Arrow. It seemed like perhaps it might live up to the novels referenced in its comparison marketing. The opening scene, of Aya being hunted down by Trackers, was an excellent hook. Where she goes next is no better: a prison where captured girls are prepared to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. In a classic move to remove humanity, the girls actual names are taken away, and they’re named after flowers and weeds. The most powerful scene in the whole book is the one where a girl commits suicide because that’s the only possible escape.

Aya mutilates herself or acts up on stage so that she won’t sell, despite her high ratings for attractiveness. Her trouble-making gets her thrown in solitary a lot, but that’s okay because she loves solitary. Why? Because that’s where her wolf friend is, of course. This was the first thing I didn’t really understand. Apparently, he came out of the sewer as a puppy and they became friends, so now he comes up and keeps her company when she’s in solitary. Brax is my favorite character by far, but I also don’t understand why he was in a city sewer or how on earth the Watcher never noticed she was skipping around with a wolf. He also really didn’t advance the plot in any way that Kiran couldn’t have, so I just do not get why he was there, except maybe View Spoiler »

The Watcher also didn’t notice that there was a Driver jumping over a radioactive creek to hang out with her. Aya doesn’t trust the Driver at first, but then she starts talking to him, since Drivers can’t talk. She names him Kiran, for his gorgeous eyes (which are brown with flecks of gold for a change). Their whole romance was so incredibly predictable that I cannot even. It should at least have been cute, but I was rolling my eyes. The incredibly half-hearted attempts at love triangle romantic drama (with both Daphne and then Kyna) did not help.

Mostly, though, I don’t the setting at all. I know I’ve bemoaned infodumping in the past, but it’s maybe better than no info at all. I have no clue if this is meant to be science fiction or fantasy. My guess is fantasy, but there’s a character who appears to have a northeastern accent, so who even knows. Watchers were apparently made to keep women from escaping and they’re really bulky men made by science? Or something? Pips are…servants made from boys not wealthy enough to buy women? And they say Pip because reasons? And maybe they are also scientifically altered somehow? Drivers are a different race? Or religion? Or something? And they’re allowed to do their own thing kind of but also everyone hates them and thinks they’re gross because reasons. The only real world building is basically this legend about why women are not trusted and used as breeding chattel, but that really didn’t suffice for me at all.

The thing about YA dystopias is that they’re too nice. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred is performing her role in the society; she is raped by the man of the house regularly, though it wouldn’t be termed that in that world. It’s dark, gritty, and terrifying. There’s no happy ending and nothing comes easily. What I love about dystopian novels is how grim they are. When writing for teens though, everything becomes easier and the heroine, alone among every girl and woman living in the society, proves the exception. The Handmaid’s Tale is so strong because Offred ISN’T an exception.

I’m not saying that what Aya goes through is easy; it’s way worse than anything I will ever experience (*knocks on wood*). However, compared to the other females in this world, she gets off lightly. That could work, I suppose, but I didn’t find the many escapes particularly believable. I don’t understand View Spoiler » The whole thing frustrates me, because the world building makes so little sense and even so the ending still seems out of character for the world.

The Glass Arrow started out so promisingly and I was hoping for a bullseye, but womp womp the arrow didn’t get close to the target.

Favorite Quote:

“There are bigger things in life than being chosen.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif archery fail

10 responses to “Review: The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons”

  1. Dragana says:

    I was mildly intrigued by this book, mostly because of the comparison to The Handmaid’s Tale, but your reviewed killed even that small flicker of interest. I don’t like the sound of this book at all. :/
    And I agree with you, ya dystopians sugarcoat everything too much.
    Dragana recently posted…Top Ten Signs That You Love Some BookMy Profile

  2. Hannah says:

    Perfect gif is perfect.

    It always sucks when the book doesn’t live up to the blurb/exciting beginning. And I’m getting rather tired of the women-as-chattel- premise – so many seem to end the same way, with a special snowflake MC.
    Hannah recently posted…Review: The Collector – John FowlesMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      The woman-as-chattel thing definitely gets overdone. I think it makes sense, in that our society still really tries to do this and it wouldn’t surprise me in a post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian scenario. The problem lies in the fact that, in young adult, the heroine always ends up being the exception, and I don’t think that effectively makes the point about the society.

  3. P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex says:

    What I got out of your review is that I should get to reading The Handmaid’s Tale. But I don’t know about this one…
    P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex recently posted…WoW – Last Year’s MistakeMy Profile

  4. Brigid says:

    Great review Christina. I’M SO TIRED OF DYSTOPIAN. *fist bump* There a few books I’m still interested in reading, but I’m more interested in science fiction and high fantasy YA nowadays. Too many dystopians have let me down.
    Brigid recently posted…4 Star Review: Saving Francesca by Melina MarchettaMy Profile

  5. Okay but THIS paragraph: “The thing about YA dystopias is that they’re too nice. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred is performing her role in the society; she is raped by the man of the house regularly, though it wouldn’t be termed that in that world. It’s dark, gritty, and terrifying. There’s no happy ending and nothing comes easily. What I love about dystopian novels is how grim they are. When writing for teens though, everything becomes easier and the heroine, alone among every girl and woman living in the society, proves the exception. The Handmaid’s Tale is so strong because Offred ISN’T an exception.”

    I’ve always thought I was horrible because I wanted things to get DARK in some books that I’ve read, but it never happens. I want to see the characters treated completely the same, or have to make choices that we only hear about from other characters. Someday it’ll happen, I’m hoping.
    Kayla @ The Thousand Lives recently posted…Weekly Update #63 – The Week I Was Spoiled RottenMy Profile

  6. Lyn Kaye says:

    *sigh* I am so happy that you give it to us straight. I am a bit tired of the fluffy dystopian novels. Thanks for the warning.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: The Fiery HeartMy Profile

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