Review: Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

Title: Girl in the Arena
Author: Lise Haines
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pub. Date: Oct. 13, 2009
Genre: YA
Main Themes: Gladiators, Sub-Cultures, Mental Disability, Love, Family
Pages: 384
Plot (from back of ARC):

It’s a fight to the death – on live TV – when a modern-day gladiator’s daughter steps into the arena.
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 you father is dying.
The rules help the family survive, but rules – and the GSA – can also work 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. To win her freedom, Lyn will enter the arena to face her father’s murderer in mortal combat. And she’ll do it even though she may be falling for him.”

Girl in the Arena has been compared to Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, and parallels can be drawn between the violent cultures in both books, but the story in each book is totally unique. The world of Girl in the Arena is one very much like today, but with a neo-gladiator sub-culture. This neo-gladiator world is violent and tightly controlled – a mix of reality television, war, and violence as entertainment taken to a terrifying new level.

The world of neo-gladiators was colorfully imagined. I could some people accepting and participating in a sport as violent and crazy as this. After all, wars are waged around the constantly. Kids play violent video games as entertainment. Those in media openly acknowledge that sex and violence sells. A sub-culture of neo-gladiators seems like a far stretch at first, but is it, really?

Lise Haines did a wondeful job of explaining the motives and behavior of her characters, which is no small feat, considering the fact that she had to convince readers that her characters would willing lead the neo-gladiator lifestyle. Lyn, the protagonist, was an interesting character. She was so torn between the lifestyle in which she had been raised and her little brother, but she also wanted to flee her life and leave her violent past behind. All of the characters were well formed – I felt like I knew them, even though they were all secondary to Lyn.

Personally, I could have used a little more emphasis on Lyn’s romantic relationship. I felt like I only got to see the beginning of the relationship, then was abruptly cut off, leaving me wondering what would happen next. If there is another book planned, then I don’t mind the ending, otherwise I’m curious!

Ratings (out of 10):
Plot: 10
Characters: 10
Writing: 10
Romance: 9
Originality: 10
Total: 49/50 (A)

Though like The Hunger Games in some ways, Girl in the Arena really isn’t like any other novel I’ve read. You want necessarily like Girl in the Arena if you liked the Hunger Games, but I think fans of Dystopian YA will find a new favorite in this novel!

Girl in the Arena also has a playlist, go here to check it out!

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9 thoughts on “Review: Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

  1. I love Dystopian Lit and the Hunger Games, so this book is now on my wishlist! I wonder if it ended abruptly because the author is planning a sequel hmmmm. Time will tell!

  2. I loved The Hunger Games, but I'm also a fan of Dystopian Lit so I think I'll like this book! Great review! Not so great that you'll send me broke come Christmas time, but all the same… *adds to wishlist* lol

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