Monday, November 9, 2009

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

[description from amazon]

It’s a fight to the death—on live TV—when a 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 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... For fans of The Hunger Games and Fight Club, Lise Haines’ debut novel is a mesmerizing look at a world addicted to violence—a modern world that’s disturbingly easy to imagine.


Although I've seen Girl in the Arena being called another The Hunger Games, it definitely is no The Hunger Games. The comparisons are ridiculous- the TV aspect of the gladiator fighting in Girl in the Arena doesn't even play a huge role until later on, when the paparazzi start showing up- and really, there is not much fighting in this book. I was kind of surprised when I got something completely different than what I was given based on earlier summaries I read, but once I got over the surprise I did enjoy Girl in the Arena a lot.

The concept is obviously very original, and it pretty much made the entire book. I always felt that there was so much more to the gladiator sport and its effects than I was told, but was mostly satisfied by the descriptions I was given. It was definitely a fascinating world, and it's easy to see how such a violent sport would occur in the society. Although the world itself was fascinating, I was less impressed with the actual plot of the book. It took quite a while for the things mentioned in the summary- Lyn's father dying, the fighter getting the bracelet- to actually occur, and once they did, everything seemed to slow down rather than speed up. Lyn had a few potential romantic interests but nothing really happened with them no matter how much it seemed like something would develop between her and one of her potential boys. And there was always the mention of a fight that had to happen later on in the novel, but the one big fight that did occur was awfully anticlimactic when it finally happened.

I enjoyed how Lyn was conflicted about not only what to do about her father's death and the fighter getting her bracelet, but also Glad culture in general. It's easy to see why she would be so conflicted, but I also liked how the book wasn't full of her musings on the subject. Often, she took charge and did what she felt was best, despite her mom's wishes, which was oh so refreshing and nice. It was often easy to form opinions on the other characters, even though they were minor and Lyn had negative views on most of them. Their personalities were still able to shine through.

Many of my other problems with Girl in the Arena are minor- the writing was choppy and hard to get used to (there are no quotation marks, for example*), I was never shown why the Gladiator Sports Association was so bad (I was told plenty of times that they are badbadbad, but never shown), and the ending was a bit too abrupt for my liking.

There's no questioning that Girl in the Arena is a unique and interesting book, but there is a lack of action to keep one completely interested. If the summaries I read promised less action, I may have enjoyed it a bit more.

*things are written like:

---[words], she said
---[words], he said

Links: Lise's website/blog/twitter

Book details: Bloomsbury/Hardcover/$16.99


  1. I didn't read your review cause I just won a copy and can't wait to read it. I know it's been compared to The Hunger Games but I won't be comparing it to that. It just sounds really good. :)

  2. I'm looking forward to reading this, but I'm glad I caught your review first. I know I'd be confused and dissatisfied if I opened it expecting The Hunger Games and got something completely different. I skimmed your review at the end, but the beginning was great - thanks for the warning!

  3. I just finished this book over the weekend. I enjoyed it. I also heard many comparisons between this and The Hunger Games, but after reading it, I don't feel like they are the same type of book at all (other than fighting to the death for entertainment!) I will be posting my review sometime this week. Do you know if this is a stand alone or a series beginner?

  4. I adored this novel, and I agree with you about The Hunger Games. It is not like that, but I can see why they are being compared. When I first recieved this novel I thought, "Oh, no. Another Hunger Games."

    No, this novel stands tall in it's own right.

  5. Extremereader: I have no clue. I'm sure that it could be turned into a series, but I could also see it being a standalone. I will have to try to find out. o.o

  6. Great review! I have been wanting to read this one, but putting it off because I needed a break from the "Hunger Games" similarities a lot of reviewers had mentioned. Now that you brought up some good differences I may have to pick it up sooner. Thanks for the review!

  7. I've heard mixed reviews of this book but I'm interested enough to read in for myself and decide. Great review.