Girl in the Arena

I initially picked up my latest read, Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines, because it was nominated for my state’s 2011-12 Young Adult Book Award.  I try to read as many of these as I can.  I was also intrigued by the book’s concept–a female gladiator in the modern world.  I enjoy books with strong female characters, and I looked forward to reading about how a gladiator culture would fit into the world as we know it.  After reading this book, however, I don’t think it is one of the top twenty books for young adults, and I think the book’s concept wasn’t executed as well as it could have been, and that only served to weaken the strength of the main character.  On the other hand, the author does paint a vivid picture of how easy it would be for a neo-gladiator culture to not only survive but thrive in our modern-day world.  It’s actually a little scary.  Girl in the Arena is a book with some flaws, but it’s also a book that makes a reader think.  Do with that what you will.

Lyn is the daughter of seven gladiators.  She has grown up in the neo-gladiator culture, but she knows that she wants more out of life.  That decision, however, may be taken out of her hands.  When her seventh father, Tommy, is killed in his last match, and his opponent, Uber, claims Lyn’s dowry bracelet, the unthinkable happens.  According to GSA (Gladiator Sports Association) rules, Lyn must now marry the man who killed her father.

Lyn’s mother, a troubled woman immersed in Glad culture, seems to support the match, especially when it becomes clear that the family will lose everything if Lyn goes against GSA rules.  Lyn also has to consider her younger brother, Thad, a boy with special needs who requires constant care.  What choice does she really have?  Well, there is one…

As Lyn faces tragedy after tragedy and the possibility of a life that mirrors her mother’s, she makes a drastic and difficult decision.  She will fight for her freedom.  She will enter the arena as a gladiator and face Uber for the right to make her own decisions.  Lyn knows that this may well be a fight to the death, and the GSA is known for not fighting fair.  What will they throw at her?  And how can she fight Uber, a young man she’s gradually grown closer to?  Will Lyn be able to fight for her own life and her family’s redemption?  More importantly, will she be able to win?  Read Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines to find out.

The main character in this book, Lyn, reminds me a lot of Katniss in The Hunger Games.  She’s strong, and she’ll do whatever it takes to take care of her family.  She’s also troubled and dealing with her own demons.  I just wish this book as a whole was as strong as the main character.  The lack of quotation marks was jarring to me, and it was often difficult to follow the flow of conversations.  And call me crazy (many people have), but I like a happy ending.  There wasn’t a clear resolution at the end of this book, and I honestly don’t think there’s enough material for a sequel, so more closure would have been nice.

Even though I’ve been a bit more critical of this book than is typical of me, I would recommend Girl in the Arena to fans of The Hunger Games and readers who like strong female characters.  I also encourage readers to think about how a neo-gladiator culture would fit into our current world that is obsessed with violence and death.  All too easy, right?

For more information on Girl in the Arena and author Lise Haines, visit http://www.lisehaines.com/.

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