Jessica's Reviews > Girl in the Arena

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines
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really liked it
bookshelves: youngadult

I secretly would like to learn to really fight, with a sword, or martial arts, so you can see the appeal of this book for me: the basic premise is an alternate reality in which gladiator fighting is fast becoming the biggest sport in the world. That hooked me for sure! But could it really deliver beyond that basic premise?

Oh, yeah!

There was so much more going on in this book! The "gladiator lifestyle", as dictated by the Gladiatorial Sport Association by-laws, is a rigid code of conduct that affects the gladiators in the arena or out of it, and extends to their entire family. Lyn, the main character, is the daughter of seven gladiators (the first was her father, the other six her stepfathers), and now that #7 is facing the biggest fight of his career, her mother is freaking out. According to the by-laws, a Glad wife can only be married seven times, so if Tommy dies in the ring, Allison will be a widow (unable even to date) for the rest of her life. If Tommy doesn't fight fair, they could lose everything: their house, their possessions, any status in their community. It's a fascinating look at celebrity and society, how it affects our lives and how we allow it to affect us. Lyn is struggling to hold her family together, to decide if she will follow her mother's path and be a Glad wife, or run away from it all. Or should she, too, fight?

The surprise element to the book that I absolutely loved was Thad, Lyn's younger brother. An eight-year-old with mental disabilities, Thad is also an oracle. He can look at anyone on the street and predict their future, when he wants to, and he makes enigmatic pronouncements at random, which Lyn is only just coming to understand are somehow real. Glad culture is modeled on ancient Rome, of course, so there are Roman elements woven throughout, mentions of famous emperors and mythical figures, neo-Roman fashions are coming into vogue, Roman philosophy . . . and Thad, the oracle.

If there's any flaw to this book, it's that I wanted so much more. I wanted more explanations of how the culture truly came to be, more detail about the final fight, more, more, more!
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Reading Progress

May 28, 2010 – Shelved
July 20, 2010 – Started Reading
Finished Reading
July 21, 2010 – Shelved as: youngadult

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message 1: by Jenn (new) - added it

Jenn Yes, most of my daydreams involve me righting wrongs and dispensing justice in a kick-ass way, rather than through peaceful negotiations. I'm with you there.

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