Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Girl in the Arena

Title: Girl in the Arena
Author: Lise Haines
Release Date: October 13, 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Cover Designer: 
Danielle Delaney
Age Audience: YA
Genre: Sci-fi
Tagline: Daughter. Celebrity. Neo-gladiator.
Summary: Lyn is a neo-gladiator's daughter, through and through. Her mother has made a career out of marrying into the high-profile world of televised blood sport, and the rules of the Gladiator Sports Association are second nature to their family. Always lend ineffable confidence to the gladiator. Remind him constantly of his victories. And most importantly: Never leave the stadium when your father is dying. The rules help the family survive, but rules and the GSA can also turn against you. When a gifted young fighter kills Lyn's seventh father, he also captures Lyn's dowry bracelet, which means she must marry him...

Review:
Girl in the Arena had a lot of potential, but the execution was poor. I was expecting a lot better.

I wasn't a fan of the info-dump at the very beginning that went through the history of the neo-gladiator sport, starting in the 1960's. I would have preferred the information to be conveyed little by little as the story progressed.

One of the few things I did enjoy about this book was the concept of gladiators in modern times. People   part of what was known as "Glad culture" lived separated from other people, and often did not marry outsiders. These people were viewed as nearly cultish by some outsiders. What interested me the most was that the rules of the arena were nearly identical to those long ago. No one is forced to fight, but will sign contracts with Caesar's Inc. to fight for a certain number of years, or sometimes a criminal on the death row is sent to the arena. Just like in ancient Rome!
However, I did say almost. I doubt there were hundreds of bylaws confining the original gladiators, and as far as I know, women could remarry as many times as they wanted.

Despite all the information that was given, I don't understand how the sport become popular. Did millions of modern people suddenly find it acceptable? How did it become  lawful? I'm certain there's something in the Constitution against killing for sport. And if the sport was so popular, why did it remain in the U.S. rather than spreading to other countries?

Fighting was not even the main focus of the book. It was mostly about how rough it was for Lyn being a celebrity. There were only two or three battles in the entire book.
I didn't like Lyn at all. She wasn't a distinct character to me. Nothing about her stood out except that she was the daughter of seven gladiators. I also didn't buy the romance between her and Uber. How could you fall in love with the person who killed your father? I couldn't.

I wish the time period had been a little more clear. While there were things we don't have today, such as the Living machine, aside from the Gladiator Sports Association the world of Girl in the Arena was just like today's world. I assumed this book to be dystopian science fiction, but that threw me off.
Speaking of the Living machine, its existence made no sense. How did it work? How did the projections of people eat food? And how did such a machine fit in with the Roman-based culture of the neo-gladiators?

One of the formatting styles of this book annoyed me. Instead of quotation marks, dialogue was indicated by m dashes. I don't see why this was done, as it was unusual and confusing.

The ending was open enough to be followed by a sequel, but apparently this book didn't gain enough popularity for that to happen, and I can see why. On a final note, I very much dislike the cover. I find it more fitting for a TV show poster than a book cover. And the expression of the model seems more pouty than angry to me.
★★

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