Haines, Lise. Girl in the Arena. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.
--Seven? The guy laughs. –I bet I’ve seen you on VH1, right?
--Not really, I say.
--No, no it’s ESPN. I know who you are. We’re talking real Glads, right? Swords, shields, heads flying, arms lopped off? Not that TV show with a bunch of batons and cargo nets, right?
--Mortal combat, Allison confirms with a polite smile, --though not always to the death.
--That’s what I mean, he says. –Mortal combat.
Lyn is the daughter of seven gladiators and a mother who has made a career out of being a gladiator’s wife. But when Lyn’s latest and favorite stepfather, Tommy, goes into the arena against an up-and-coming gladiator, she fears that this might be his last fight.
Intriguing. At first I thought I would hate the dashes in place of quotation marks, but they grew on me. I liked the main character, she definitely never took the easy way out. Sometimes I wondered why she didn’t, particularly at the end…but I was okay with it. I’m loving these alternate reality books. I don’t think this one is supposed to be set in the future, but in an alternate version of 2009. And the romance came out of nowhere and shocked me—but I liked it. I wish we could have seen more of it.
The biggest problem I had with the novel was the clumsy world building. She would introduce something right before it became important…which means pretty much zero foreshadowing. It makes the big reveals sort of anticlimactic. Also, I wish she would have gone deeper with some of the issues she brought up. She put her character into some tough situations, and I would have loved to see the girl work things out a little more. Maybe she will in the sequel, if there is one.
This is a great novel for those that liked the Hunger Games. It was similar in tone and plot. Not as well written, perhaps (could anything be as good as Hunger Games, though?), but still enjoyable.