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Girl in the Arena Hardcover – October 13, 2009
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About the Author
Lise Haines is Writer in Residence at Emerson College, has held a Briggs-Copeland lectureship at Harvard, and was a finalist for the PEN Nelson Algren Award and the Paterson Fiction Prize. She is the author of two adult novels, In My Sister's Country and Small Acts of Sex and Electricity, as well as many essays and short stories. Girl in the Arena is her first work for young adults. She lives in the Boston area.
Top customer reviews
Lyn grew up in the glad culture. Her father started fighting on the streets in underground glad events and was eventually one of the first legitimate glads... until he was killed. Then Lyn's mother remarried- another glad. In glad culture, glads, their widows, and their children stick together. Glad widows often remarry other glads, but seven is the limit. When Lyn's 7th glad father is killed in the ring by an up-and-comer, Uber, something goes horribly wrong. Lyn gave her stepfather, Tommy, her dowry bracelet to wear for luck in the arena. When he is killed, Uber picks up the bracelet and puts it on, and glad laws clearly state a man who puts on a woman's dowry bracelet is then betrothed to her. Now Lyn is expected to marry her father's killer.
Lyn refuses to follow glad bylaws just to appease Caesars, the company that owns and runs the gladiators and their events. She intends to fight Uber to the death to protect her mother and brother (who is described as being autistic but never labeled as such) as well as regain her freedom. Family glad friends help her train secretly, and she remembers a lot from her stepfathers who taught her fighting techniques over the years. There is only one problem, though. Uber isn't a bad guy. In fact, he adored her stepfather he was supposed to kill. He also hates Caesar's as much as Lyn does. And he wants to marry Lyn... for real, not just for the bylaws. Now Lyn must find a way to win in the arena without killing a man who doesn't deserve to die.
This is a very interesting book with an amazing premise, but at times it falls a little flat. I loved the characters, especially Lyn and Uber. The supporting characters like Lyn's mother and brother are also fascinating. Her mother is a tragic character who can barely keep herself together, and her brother is perpetually teetering on the edge. The plot is thoughtful and novel, but it stretches out a bit in certain places. My biggest complaint was the ending. While the book ended the way I wanted it to, it was rushed through in a brief few pages- I wanted more! We spent a couple hundred pages learning about Lyn's training and the most exciting part- the last battle with Lyn and Uber and its aftermath- are rushed through! It seemed like a waste of a good climax to end it so quickly.
As a whole, I would give this book to a student who is more comfortable reader and can wade through an occasionally slow part in a story. The premise is incredible and can lead to so many amazing discussions with students- especially about violence in our society. The author is also very nice and very open to conversations with students about her book! It would be an incredible experience to hook her up with a student and let them pick her brain about the story!
On the bright side, I like Lyn's relationship with Tommy (she loved him the most among her fathers) and Thad (she loved him whole - with his being `special' and all). I like how Mark and his parents protected and helped Lyn in times of trouble. I like how Uber is considered one of the fiercest Neo-gladiators but usually appeared clumsy and awkward with Lyn. It's strange how I like the supporting characters more than Lyn - I just did not see her doing enough (to take charge of her mother, to defy the GSA). She's smart, though. All the things she did seemed all too late for me.
There are instances where I took a sharp intake of breath - moments triggered by man's cruelty. These are the only times I was reminded that I am reading dystopia. Girl in the Arena bored me half the time. I won't say that it's a waste of time; I'd rather say I should have read another dystopia instead.