Review: Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines
Title: Girl in the Arena
Author: Lise Haines
Publication: Bloomsbury USA; October 13, 2009
Rating: 2 BOOKMARKS
Daughter of seven gladiators, Lyn finds herself in an unthinkable situation: Marry the man who slew her seventh father or fight him herself.
Set in modern-day Cambridge, MA, Haines juxtaposes familiar landmarks and cultural references with a gladiator society that devolved from one man’s attempt to quell the country’s blood-lust during the Vietnam War. What started as a harmless outlet for aggression (a la paintball), fractured into splinter groups of men (and even some women) using real weapons inflict injury and death on fellow competitors.
Almost five decades later, Neo-Gladiators have secured their place in the modern world. Arenas have been built in Boston and other cities and instead of going out to the ball game, families go out to see men fight to the death. Part satire, part dystopian novel, Haines starts with a terrific premise and credible characters but falls short with the execution.
A covert trip to New York uncovers Lyn’s father’s body being held for mysterious reasons, a young, special-needs brother with the ability to predict the future, two potential love interests, holographic technology, secret fighting lessons, and the promise of a to-the-death arena fight never added up to the story I was anticipating.
Haines created a strong and independent young female protagonist in Lyn–she’s focused on her future and her goals–but in contrast, her mother is weak, unable to stand on her own without the support of a man.
Stylistically, Haines forgoes the use of quotation marks, which I found a bit awkward, but that didn’t bother me nearly as much as the lack of real action. Unlike the Hunger Games, which dedicates a good portion of the book to the actual game, Girl in the Arena didn’t offer up that type of dramatic plot–it was more like The Conflicts Lyn Faces on the Way to the Arena.
Overall, Girl in the Arena seemed to promise a bit more than it delivered.