Culture & Criticism Since 2003
Mysteries are one of the most popular of all genres, with the shelves of most every bookstore likely to be glutted with an array of who-done-its with innumerable plot lines. In turn, it’s quite rare to find a title that brims with any kind of originality. And it’s even a more rare occurrence to find a debut novel that compels your undivided attention. However, Mark of the Beast, by Adolphus A. Anekwe, is able to transcend the common minefields of first time fiction and forge some new ground. Anekwe’s story centers around Dr. Regina Dickerson and her laboratory wherein she discovers a genetic link to violent behavior. Suddenly throwing out questions that the church-establishment doesn’t want asked, Dickerson comes to lose herself in a futuristic version of the Scopes Monkey Trial. I believe that a book is worth reading if it can teach as it entertains. Mark of the Beast is just that type of effort, leaving you to revel in this deep exploration of human nature.
A prerequisite for books aimed at the young-adult reader is that they be packed with action. Like it or not, teen readers have to be pulled into a story, and the surest way to do it is with edge-of-the-seat intensity. And that’s just what Kristen Simmons gives the audience here. The Glass Arrow is an evocative story that introduces us to Aya, a 15-year-old girl living in a world where women are hunted down and sold at breeding auctions. After a time on the run, Aya is also captured – at once forced into hard decisions, made to fight for her virtue on a landscape gone fetid and spoiled. The writing here captivates, as Simmons confronts young readers with gown-up questions in a novel that plays like a movie, commanding the whole of your attention.