Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

Many of you have heard me go on and on about all the truly unforgettable books that Angie from Angieville has recommended - there's quite a list at this point. Last week, she posted a blazingly hot review for a recent debut titled Girl in the Arena, and like Pavlov's dog, I immediately felt the need to pick it up. Imagine my joy when Angie herself hand-delivered said book to me on Friday (thanks Angie!). And true to form, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since.

Lyn G. is the daughter of seven gladiators. Her beautiful mother, Allison, has made a career of sorts being married to Glads and lives and breathes according to the bylaws governing Glad wife and child behavior. Tommy G. is lucky husband number seven and has become more a father to Lyn and her younger brother Thad than any of her previous fathers. Tommy is also one of the best Glads in the business and now only has a few fights left before his contract is over with the Gladiator Sports Association. For his last bout, he's slated to face the rising-star Uber, a young Glad who is at the top of his game and who strangely enough, has the usually confident Tommy, Lyn, Allison and even Thad worried and obsessing over the outcome.
This is one of the first bylaws I was taught; number 96:

Never leave the stadium when your father is dying.
As a Glad daughter, Lyn feels trapped in a life she has no control over and suffocated by a mother who only wants her to make the same choices she did. But Lyn is fiercely independent and of all things a pacifist(!) and would like nothing better than to take her family away from all the violence and the prying eyes of the media. Especially her mentally handicapped brother Thad who often makes surprisingly accurate but oh so creepy predictions but who she would do anything for. Including stepping into the one place she hates more than any other - the arena - for the chance to fight for their freedom from the GSA once and for all.

Part social commentary, part dystopian fantasy Girl in the Arena portrays an America that isn't too far off by any stretch of the imagination. Chuck Palahniuk-esque fight clubs controlled by the all too powerful GSA abound and achieve higher ranking than even the NFL Over them all (and the bane of Lyn's existence) hangs the persistent, malicious media and paparazzi who make the Glad way of life impossible to escape.

Lise Haines' book is full of convoluted twists while oozing daring and character upon character that fairly leap off the pages. I do wish there had been more action scenes involving Lyn and clearer descriptions for some of the aspects of Glad culture which were a little murky but I have to look beyond them both in the face of the brilliance of Lyn's story. Against the powerful GSA and her daunting family she's honest, she's loyal and she's so freaking tough - no wonder she had Uber walking on eggshells most of the time. Parts of the action in Girl in the Arena completely broadsided me (just like it does Lyn) and all I could do was hang on, trusting Lyn to make sense of it all. I think what ultimately made me love Lyn to pieces however was her constant maneuvering of her brother, herself, her friend Mark, and even Uber in a such way to achieve some semblance of happiness for them all.

And if nothing else, please take a moment to watch this video I found over at Teens Read and Write. It's part review, part music video and wholly awesome.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Abby (the) Librarian review
Angieville review
Becky's Book Reviews
The Compulsive Reader review
Juiciliciousss Reviews

book source: borrowed from a friend


Angiegirl said...

I'm so glad you liked it! I was hoping it wasn't just me. I still find myself thinking about it. Lyn was just such an active, determined character. And they were each so well-drawn. Backed into corners every one. But I loved them.

Michelle said...

Angie - yes, it has some really great characters making really difficult choices. I'm so glad you reviewd it. Now I'm feeling like you that I want a sequel becuase I'd love to see what Lyn and Uber and Mark are all up to.