As a woman, the scariest dystopian books are about a future world where women have lost about 300 years of progress and are treated as chattel to be bought and sold. Such is the case in The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons.
Aya has grown up isolated in the mountains with her mother, cousin and another woman and her children. They are all in hiding outside the big city where all girls who are ‘pure’ and possibly fertile are put in a special dormitory in the city to await their turn at auction and Aya’s mother doesn’t want that to happen to her daughter. It’s not just the idea that her daughter might become some man’s possession, but Aya’s mother knows first-hand that a girl not found to be ‘pure’ will have an X carved into her face with a knife and be given to the brothels. Even girls who do attend and are bid on at the auction, have to face a ‘private meeting’ with their prospective buyer who sometimes take advantage of the girls, a rich pimp could bid on a girl at auction and make her his working girl. Even if a ‘respectful businessman’ buys a girl, if he tires of her eventually, he could send her back to the dorm to be auctioned off again while he finds a new wife.
No, scraping a living out of the mountains is a better life in Aya’s mom’s mind and Aya agrees. Brought up free and strong, she knows she is so much more than anyone’s piece of property. However, the fresh air and food she consumes outside of polluted city make her a prime target as it means she is fertile enough to bear children, especially the male ones wanted by the city. Just like what still happens in many countries today, girl babies are sometimes killed as they lack value. They live when the female count is low.
Things weren’t always like this, Aya’s mom has told her stories of a time when all women walked proud and free until the Red Wars when men turned on women similar to the Salem Witch Trials and killed most women and enslaved the remainder. These tales told deep in the mountains have always been scary for Aya to hear, but they are not near as scary as the day Trackers invade her family’s mountain home. Freedom is never more precious than to those who have lived it and now may lose it.