Saturday, September 19, 2009

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

This book will be available October 13th, 2009.


During the week, Lyn lives in a big house in Cambridge, and hangs out with friends in Harvard Square. But over the weekends she cheers her father on when he gears up for neo-gladiator competition—a high-profile televised blood sport that rivals the NFL. Lyn’s father is the top player in the league, and the paparazzi that have always swarmed him have started to dog Lyn’s every move. All this fame comes with an even higher price. Lyn’s family lives with the constant presence of violence, uncertainty, and a strict cultural code set by the Gladiator Sports Association. When a skilled young fighter slays Lyn’s father, the GSA imposes an unthinkable sentence—Lyn must marry her father’s murderer. Though her mother has made a career out of marrying into Glad culture, Lyn is prepared to do whatever it takes to claim her independence. Even if it means going into the arena herself…. Lise Haines’s debut novel, a dark satire for our time, is a mesmerizing look at a modern world addicted to violence, fame, and greed—a world eerily close to our own.


Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 7/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 7/10
Setting: 8/10
Recommendation: 7/10
Total Score: 50/70

Grade: B

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Quite a bit.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: A lot of smoking (including teens), some drinking.
Sexual Content: Nothing too direct, some crude humor and adult content.
Disturbing Images/Violence: The point of the entire book is that grown men get together and try to carve each other's guts out. So, yes, there is violence.


This book was weird. I mean, it was just plain bizarre. That's not to say it wasn't good--in fact, it was thoroughly engrossing. But it was just a rather strange experience for me. I enjoyed reading it, for the most part. The emotion, the lost-ness of it all, was quite intense.

The story makes a statement. A statement about our world that we live in, our culture. What it all comes down to, when you get rid of all the glamor--all the celebrity worship, the drama, the plastered-on emotion--it's all destruction and honor. And that's what the Roman gladiators were about. That's what the neo-Glads are about.

The world of Glad culture was disorienting. It is here. It is now. And while it's not what we know, it is frighteningly close. The desensitization to violence, the overwhelming power of the sport, the idolatry we pay to stars--it's all there, magnified until it can't be ignored.

Lyn's story is a suspenseful combination of internal and external conflicts that reflect and contradict each other in a harsh and violent way. However, relationships were seriously lacking. Nothing went anywhere. Having read the book, I absorb and appreciate the messages, but there's little else to it. The plot rides on narration and reactions, and while this usually wouldn't be a problem, it did affect the enjoyability of the story.

The writing was well-executed, if a bit quirky. For no apparent reason, dialogue was written like this:

--Hello, she said. --I haven't seen you in a while.

And thoughts were written like this:

i know not what i am.

It was difficult to get used to, difficult to pay attention to the story when the abnormal grammar choices stuck out so much. But after a while, it didn't bother me so much. The book turned out to be not very eventful, extremely meaningful, and abundantly energetic. If you liked trippy novels with lots of edginess and little relationship development, this is your book.


  1. Huh. That was a really insightful review. Thanks! :)

  2. I recieved this one as well. Good review!

  3. Great review. I need to check this out some time.

  4. Agree about the dialogue. Once I got use to it, loved the book...really loved it!


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