Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

girl in the arena lise haines dystopian book coverIn Girl in the Arena, gladiator culture becomes part of US culture, first through an attempt to find peace without war, then as a high stakes game of life and death. As the culture evolves and the organization in charge changes the rules to ever increase the profit, the life of those within its system become ever more complicated. Lyn has had seven gladiator fathers, her mother is the epitome of a gladiator’s wife, and Lyn is expected to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Lyn isn’t sure this lifestyle is for her, but when the fighter who kills her seventh father picks up her dowry bracelet, the rules state she must marry him. Otherwise, her family may lose everything.

This book is one of the most fascinating books I have read in a while (perhaps since The Hunger Games). Haines manages to create a very real and frighteningly possible future where money and media surpass ethics and morality. Gladiator’s lives are nothing if not used for entertainment.

Lyn’s journey–from questioning child of seven gladiators to grieving daughter to fiancé to a warrior in her own right–is so touchingly real. You cannot help but root for her, even without knowing how you want things to turn out. Should she marry her father’s killer? The answer seems obvious, but Haines manages to make you wonder if maybe you do want the pair to end up together.

Some of the characters are complicated and strange. You can’t help but want to yell at some and to step in to protect others. Which is exactly the balance you want in a good book.

Here we have an excellent social commentary without becoming too bogged down in a political climate.

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