December 14, 2009

Girl In The Arena

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines.
(Author Webpage)

Lyn is a neo-gladiator’s daughter, through and through. Her mother has made a career out of marrying into the high-profile world of televised blood sport, and the rules of the Gladiator Sports Association are second nature to their family. Always lend ineffable confidence to the gladiator. Remind him constantly of his victories. And most importantly: Never leave the stadium when your father is dying. The rules help the family survive, but rules—and the GSA—can also turn against you. When a gifted young fighter kills Lyn’s seventh father, he also captures Lyn’s dowry bracelet, which means she must marry him...

The whole time I was reading Girl in the Arena I was intrigued by what kind of arena the author was trying to portray. For one there is the arena that fame, which has been trusted upon Lyn by the decisions of her mother, the family arena, and then there is the physical arena that Lyn's fathers have entered into and died over and over again. I felt that Lyn's story was one of being torn. Torn between her family and duties to her younger brother, Thad, and torn by her duties to the world that she has been raised in. She is expected to do as she is told. When she is told to marry Uber Lynn finds herself torn between duty, family, and herself.

Haine's book had me thinking, a lot. I was intrigued by the fairy tale-like world that the GSA is trying to create for entertainment and monetary purposes. The lengths to which the faceless association will take in order to keep making money of off the gladiators and their family is astounding. The dehumanizing, and violent way in which the GSA uses people constantly surprised me. This plus Uber and Lynn's relationship in contrast to Lynn's relationship with her best friend Mark almost had the potential for a love triangle. Thankfully Haines didn't go with this. While I like a good love triangle there was too much for the story to be weighed down with too much romance. I felt this was a good call by Haines. The purpose of the story, I felt, was to show humanity in a cruel light based on the idea that entertainment can become boundary-less simply because viewers are able to so aptly detach from the reality that there are real people in the arena.

With that said there were things that bothered me about the book. The dashes in place of quotation marks was more then annoying. Apparently other authors have done this little trick with success, but I have yet to personally read these works. I found the style useless to the story, and at the beginning I was very close to giving up on the story because at times it was confusing at times for me to figure out when a character was still talking or had finished talking. Next time I truly suggest that Haines not do this. It distracts from the story and character development.

Next, the story dragged. It was overly long, and Haines could have told a crisper, cleaner story by cutting out about 100 pages of world building and character background. There was a little too much information without enough action to propel the story forward. For a story about gladiator fighting as a main sport there surprisingly little gladiator fighting, and the fights seem too short to really project the violence.

With all that said I still found this book noteworthy. I still found myself thinking over the plot and picking at the world that Haines built in an effort to understand it better. For this I have to say pick up the book. Read it. Hopefully you'll find yourself mulling over it as much as I did.

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