Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Girl in the Arena (YA)

Haines, Lise. 2009. Girl in the Arena. Bloomsbury USA. 336 pages.

The clerk asks for my autograph.

Our heroine, Lyn, is a celebrity by association. She's had seven fathers. Each one a gladiator. Or should I say a neo-gladiator. And as our novel opens, her current father, her seventh father is preparing for a big fight. For some reason, Lyn doesn't quite know why, he's acting strange. Could there be something about this fight that is spooking him? She's not sure. (And neither are we). But destiny seems to be at work. When the fight doesn't go well, Lyn and her family struggle with what to do. Her mother, a widow yet again, is forbidden to remarry. Only seven is the rule. And the powers-that-be, the gladiator sports association, seem to be rewriting rules in their own favor. In such a way that Lyn and her family will lose their home and the most valuable of their possessions unless they do exactly what the association wants. What they want, what they demand is for Lyn to marry her father's killer. To be fair, this killer is young. It's not like they're asking this teen girl to marry a forty year old man or something. But still. The very idea unsettles her. (As it should!) That's unacceptable to her. Can Lyn think of a way to avoid that fate and yet still bring in all the ratings and keep the GSA satisfied?

What did I think of this one? I thought it was an interesting premise in a way. An alternate universe where the gladiator sport became popular and thriving again. This gladiator culture thrives on violence--the bloody gore of it all, the battle-to-the-death thrill of it all. Reading about a culture that cheers violence, that celebrates bloodshed, it was difficult to take at times. I've read books about Ancient Rome in the past and found the ideas disturbing, and reading about them in a modern setting was equally disturbing. The idea of fighting for the fun of it, or for money, it just doesn't sit well with me. I mean it's one thing to fight to the death if you're fighting for something real, something important, something that matters. But to fight for applause, to fight for popularity, to fight for glory? Well, it's unsettling. Lyn feels this. She gets that there is something wrong about this culture. She's grown up with it, but it's still not okay with her. Not really.

Other stops on the tour:

Abby the Librarian, A Patchwork of Books, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Book Buzz, KidzBookBuzz.com, Maw Books Blog, My Own Little Corner of the World, Reading is My Superpower, Through a Child’s Eyes

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Inside A Book said...

I am a daily reader of your blog and have used your blog list to read more blogs and increase my exposure to "what's out there!"

I don't mean to be negative but the new change in the blog list really takes the fun out of reading other blogs connected to yours now. It seems sterile and loses the personalities of the other blogs. I realize that this may only be my opinion but it seems that now I'm going to some commercial site and not a "personal" page - one where the personality of another blogger or reader shines through. I always enjoyed visiting your blog and then seeing in an instant what someone else was reading, posting on, or up to; it was always a little perk of your blog, in my eyes.

Again, I don't want to be a negative-Nellie, but I figure that my comment might be something that someone else feels as well.

I appreciate the books you expose me to and I enjoy your well written reviews. Thanks a bunch!

Kailana said...

This is a different sort of read...

sally said...

Becky, you nail the reason the book was so hard for me to read. These people were fighting for money or glory but they were signing up themselves. Once in, they were trapped in, maybe, but no one made them join up. It was hard to sympathize with them because of that.

I did, however, find the book to be a thought provoking commentary on our own society and it's love of violence. The reality shows are getting more violent as we go, I think. Emotionally violent if not physically violent just yet.

Lindsay said...

Hunh, sounds like an interesting premise. I probably wouldn't pick up a book where the hero was one of the gladiators, but if Lyn is just trying to get by in a world she was born into, I might give it a shot.

I'll see what else you've reviewed on here. I'm in desperate need of some new SF/F novels. :)