Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines (review by Bella Aire)
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... For fans of The Hunger Games and Fight Club, Lise Haines’ debut novel is a mesmerizing look at a world addicted to violence—a modern world that’s disturbingly easy to imagine.
This book was certainly one to pique my interest. The premise was a promising one, and it possessed a theme that I suspect will hit a wave in young adult popularity in these next few years (not unlike the popularity seen with pirates and vampires in this age group).
Girl in the Arena has a wonderful idea...but a poor execution. The violent dystopian spin on this novel is reminiscent of great works such as 1984 and, as the inside cover boasts, Fight Club. Like those novels, Girl in the Arena makes a reader pause to think..what if? Books such as these serve as a reminder to our culture to be wary of the direction in which we are heading, and, for that reason, these novels are always useful.
This novel didn't stop at creating a warning through the plot; it proceeded to issue warnings through the characters. For example, Lyn's mother has married seven times and no longer knows how to keep her life together without a man's presense in it. As the novel progresses, we learn that her seven husbands weren't exactly strong candidates for that role (with her second husband perhaps being the sole exception). The only interruption in her role as a wife is her role as a mother. Unfortunately, this interruption is not strong enough to fight her identity as a wife. In addition, Lyn's mother has to follow a strict set of rules as the wife of a gladiator and holds little, if any, freedom in life. This character makes it obvious that no woman should live for a man...nor should she be completely reliant on him.
Other than the strong social commentary, Girl in the Arena proved to be a rather weak novel. The writing was choppy and uneven in certain places, and the book ended somewhat abruptly. But what bothered me most was the lack of connection between the author and Lyn. This author/protaganist connection is vital to any strong novel. This does not mean that the author has to like their character (some of the greatest classics in literature have some of the most unlikable protaganists). Rather, the author has to fully understand their character. I didn't get the feeling that Haines reached out and truly felt what Lyn was thinking, feeling, or seeing.
Still, despite its lack of finesse in certain areas, Girl in the Arena serves as a good compare-and-contrast novel against the world we live in today. I particularly recommend it to anyone interested in dystopia and the decline of humanity. However, if a reader really wants a strong, modern, Young Adult novel in this catergory, I would have to reference them to The Hunger Games, the first in Suzanne Collins' brilliant trilogy.
Check out this amusing Girl in the Arena YouTube video here.
Or stop by Lise Haines' site.
Finally, you can purchase Girl in the Arena here.