Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines
Release Date: October 13, 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Remember gladiators of the Roman times? Where gladiators fought each other, often to the death, as entertainment for others? Sometimes they fought each other, sometimes they fought wild animals and there were several different types of gladiators. The different types fought with different weapons (i.e. a trident and a net, or a shield and a short sword, etc) and different styles were often pitted against each other. But that brutal, bloody sport is a thing of the past--right?
Not for Lyn. In an alternate reality, this bloody and barbaric sport is not only accepted, but a popular hit with many people. There is a whole "Glad" culture with many young men signing contracts to be gladiators and young women training to be the perfect Glad wife. Lyn's mother, Allison, is a Glad wife. In fact, she's had 7 gladiator husbands, with Tommy being her current one. The previous 6 fathers Lyn has had have all died in the arena. Allison is on her last husband. If Tommy dies, she is forbidden by Glad law to marry again. But Allison is hoping to escape that fate, since Tommy only has a few more battles to complete before his contract runs out.
However, an optimistic outcome is not predicted by Thad, Lyn's brother. Excessive commotion and noise bother Thad, but he has an uncanny knack for predicting the future in his blunt, sometimes abrupt, statements. Thad prophecies Tommy's demise, which Allison desperately hopes will not come to fruition, since she will not be able to marry again, and Lyn will be fatherless.
But it all seemed fated to happen. Despite Tommy's skill, he is killed by a newer but promising fighter, Uber. Along with his victory, Uber takes Lyn's dowry bracelet from Tommy's body. Now according to Glad law, Lyn must marry Uber. Allison is sinking into depression with Tommy's death and Lyn's world has just exploded.
Those outside of the Glad world are outraged--since when did a girl have to marry her father's murderer? Unwilling to give up her life to the culture she had never fully accepted, Lyn is willing to fight for her freedom. But things start to get complicated when Lyn gets to know Uber better...
Girl in the Arena provides an interesting alternate reality where such a violent sport is a celebrated reality. I was rather disappointed with this book--some parts were hard to believe, and the story line was a bit slow. Sometimes things dragged and I lost sight of the plot. Pacing wasn't brilliant and I felt like the character introductions went on for too long. It was nice getting to know the charaters better, especially what was going on in their heads during their struggles, but after awhile, it seemed as if it was just dragging and it started sounding more like explanations rather than descriptions.
The explanation for why this alternate reality came true didn't really work for me. The reason for the rise of the gladiator sport was because it was a 'response to the violence in Vietnam.' I guess this part was just not explained well enough? It just didn't seem entirely believable for me. I dunno if I'd proclaim it 'far-fetched' but perhaps it just wasn't fleshed out properly, and if it was explained with a better description, perhaps it would have worked better. Sometimes it seemed like there were 'holes' in the story.
For those looking into this book for the fight scenes, gladiators, and violence, I will say that the fight scenes were shorter and fewer than I had anticipated. Since the title is "Girl in the Arena," I had expected more descriptive, extensive and frequent fight scenes. Gladiators and its culture play such a big role in this novel, but there are not that many actual gladiator fight scenes. Girl in the Arena concentrates more on Lyn's life and her struggles to live with the life her mother chose.
The blurb says it's for fans of The Hunger Games, but for me, this book didn't measure up to The Hunger Games. It didn't captivate me like The Hunger Games did, and it wasn't as well delivered and written as The Hunger Games.
I guess this writing style isn't really for me, but Girl in the Arena still provides some interesting alternate reality to consider in general. I would be pretty horrified if this alternate reality was actually our reality! I would hate seeing all that bloodshed so widely accepted!
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