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Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines
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Girl in the Arena

by Lise Haines

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3974341,956 (3.23)11
In Massachusetts, eighteen-year-old Lyn, who has grown up in the public eye as the daughter of seven gladiators, wants nothing less than to follow her mother's path, but her only way of avoiding marriage to the warrior who killed her last stepfather may be to face him in the arena.
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In the very near future, gladiatorial battles to the death have become a worldwide phenomenon. And despite her pacifistic stance, teenaged Lyn is right in the middle of it. Her mother has married a succession of gladiators, each dying in the ring, and Lyn and her brother have been raised knowing little but "Glad" culture. Lyn is mocked and bullied in school, but everywhere else she's a minor celebrity. Only a few people understand her odd position: her childhood friend Mark (himself the son of a former gladiator) and her step-father Tommy, the top-ranked gladiator in the world. But then tragedy strikes, and Lyn is forced to make an impossible choice.

The world building feels a little forced here: Lyn's life is ruled by the Glad bylaws, but why would gladiatorial fighting rules created in the 20th century have rules about women's dowry braclets, even while women fight as gladiators and there don't seem to be actual dowries or stigma attached to premarital sex (well, no more than there is today)? It seems more like the author forced random rules into the story in order to push Lyn into a love triangle. The characters themselves are great, and their relationships are the truest, best part of the story. They have fantastic conversations, each clearly coming from their own specific circumstances, with different experiences coloring how they read situations. The plot races along, pulling Lyn with it as each of the pillars of her world crumble. But near the end, the plot takes a turn for the disappointing.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT




Because Uber picked up Lyn's dowry bracelet, the bylaws say they have to marry. And if they don't, Lyn's family will lose the house and their money, making it nearly impossible to care for Lyn's disabled brother. But then Lyn decides she'll fight Uber instead, and pushes Caeser's (the owners of the gladiatorial games) to accept that as a viable alternative. All through the novel Lyn has had flashbacks to her many instances of training with gladiators--she was raised by them, after all--and we've repeatedly seen her have a ruthless killer instinct. But instead of actually fighting Uber, she decides to send in a Second Life character with her face to fight for her. (If they can make holographic projections of people, why spend all this time programming a Second Life character to look and act like her instead of just taping Lyn and using her actual body and moves? The inclusion of Second Life felt really unnecessary.) Even this would be a cool idea--I thought maybe she could use the success of the fight to convince Caeser's to use realistic holographic projections to fight instead of real people actually dying. But no, she ends up fighting Uber anyway, and accidentally runs her disabled brother through with her sword. I though maybe THIS would finally bring down Caeser's--they created a situation where a young girl almost kills her even younger brother, on live tv. But no, instead Lyn narrates a quick epilogue about how now she's suing Caeser's but nothing else has changed. She's using her increased fame and notoriety to get access to the original creator of the games (who no longer controls them). Finally, I thought, this will be how she brings down Caeser's, the company that made her life hell, killed seven of her fathers, drove her mother to suicide, tried to force her to marry her father's murderer, and is not only glamorizing violence, but actually seems to be taking over the country. And...still nada.

So basically, despite many, many ways in which Lyn could have defeated the evil corporation poisoning the world, it ends up with Lyn embroiled in a court case and hoping to go to college someday. All the plot about her training and killer instinct meant nothing. All the plot about her growing friendship with Uber and his own distaste for Caeser's meant nothing. Even running her brother through with a sword meant nothing--despite his recurring prophecy that he would become the most famous person ever (which I took to mean outrage over his death would be the lynchpin to pull down a multinational corporation). Very frustrating! It might be more realistic, but c'mon--don't promise a "girl in the arena" in the title and then not even have her fight a gladiatorial battle, let alone win anything. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
From the cover and the synopsis on the back of this book, I thought I was in for an action packed, entertaining read, with a kick butt heroine. Unfortunately, I was bitterly disappointed. This book was blah! I really liked the premise - a modern US adopting the culture of ancient Rome, but the plot didn't deliver. This book was not about a girl in an arena, it was a book about family issues. For a book with such promise, it was a real failure! ( )
  HeatherLINC | Jan 22, 2016 |
A couple of years ago this was the it book. I bought myself a copy when one of the Barnes and Nobles in the area went out of business and it's been sitting on a shelf holding on since then. Now that I'm in a read things and actually get rid of them purge type deal I decided that I needed to get this thing read. Lynn is the daughter of 7 gladiators (b/c her mother's been married 7 times not through funky genetics). Her last and most likely favorite step father has just died in the ring and Ceasar's the company that owns the whole gladiatorial sport is trying to deny Lynn and her family all of their things unless Lynn marries the guy who killed her step father in the ring (due to some arcane rule about dowry bracelets.)

I see why this book was so popular. Lynn is strong and likeable and in an impossible situation. What she does to keep her family together through tragedy after tragedy is nothing short of heroic and miraculous. There is the hint of the ever popular love triangle even though that is not the focal part of the story even though it seems as though it should be. This story is always Lynn's though, from beginning to end. ( )
  Rosa.Mill | Nov 21, 2015 |
A couple of years ago this was the it book. I bought myself a copy when one of the Barnes and Nobles in the area went out of business and it's been sitting on a shelf holding on since then. Now that I'm in a read things and actually get rid of them purge type deal I decided that I needed to get this thing read. Lynn is the daughter of 7 gladiators (b/c her mother's been married 7 times not through funky genetics). Her last and most likely favorite step father has just died in the ring and Ceasar's the company that owns the whole gladiatorial sport is trying to deny Lynn and her family all of their things unless Lynn marries the guy who killed her step father in the ring (due to some arcane rule about dowry bracelets.)

I see why this book was so popular. Lynn is strong and likeable and in an impossible situation. What she does to keep her family together through tragedy after tragedy is nothing short of heroic and miraculous. There is the hint of the ever popular love triangle even though that is not the focal part of the story even though it seems as though it should be. This story is always Lynn's though, from beginning to end. ( )
  Rosa.Mill | Nov 21, 2015 |
A couple of years ago this was the it book. I bought myself a copy when one of the Barnes and Nobles in the area went out of business and it's been sitting on a shelf holding on since then. Now that I'm in a read things and actually get rid of them purge type deal I decided that I needed to get this thing read. Lynn is the daughter of 7 gladiators (b/c her mother's been married 7 times not through funky genetics). Her last and most likely favorite step father has just died in the ring and Ceasar's the company that owns the whole gladiatorial sport is trying to deny Lynn and her family all of their things unless Lynn marries the guy who killed her step father in the ring (due to some arcane rule about dowry bracelets.)

I see why this book was so popular. Lynn is strong and likeable and in an impossible situation. What she does to keep her family together through tragedy after tragedy is nothing short of heroic and miraculous. There is the hint of the ever popular love triangle even though that is not the focal part of the story even though it seems as though it should be. This story is always Lynn's though, from beginning to end. ( )
  Rosa.Mill | Nov 21, 2015 |
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They became too powerful to live among us, too self-concerned, too visionary, too blind. -Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides.
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To Sienna
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In 1969 there was, a young widower named Joseph Byers who lost his only child, Ned to the war in Vietnam, when Ned tried to dodge the draft.
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