Haines, L. (2009). Girl in the Arena. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.
PLOT SUMMARY: Set in a world similar to our own, but with some decidedly more advanced technology and some cultural differences, Lyn is a member of a neo-gladiator subculture. She has had seven fathers, all save the seventh have died in the arena at the hands of other gladiators. Now, Tommy, the seventh and last father is facing his most dangerous fight against an undefeated younger gladiator named Uber. The consequences of this fight will be unprecedented, despite the oracular predictions Lyn's younger brother, Thad, has made. Lyn will be forced into a very difficult situation, one that will take all of her skills to get out of with her freedoms in tact. That's assuming of course she doesn't die in the attempt.
The world Haines has created splinters off from the events of the Vietnam War, as the world turns to reinstate gladiator fights in the hopes of curbing aggression and war. Girl in the Arena includes many references to classical Roman culture and critiques of modern culture (notably celebrity culture, human nature and television programming). While Lyn certainly is a character with some feminist beliefs, she's still very realistic in her portrayal (as opposed to some other books that give their feminist characters some unrealistic powers or skills).
I really liked this book. After I started reading it, I didn't want to stop. What more can you ask for? I'm a hungry glutton. Yum, book!
Informed readers probably won't be able to help making comparisons to The Hunger Games trilogy. Both Girl in the Arena and The Hunger Games include strong female protagonists who are manipulated by organizations or governments to fight or develop romantic relationships with certain competitors, and incorporations of ancient Roman culture with science fiction twists.
Girl in the Arena can be used to discuss the various critiques it makes of popular culture and of the state of civilization. It could be paired with lessons on Ancient Roman culture. It also lends itself to comparison to The Hunger Games.
This book would be a good mother-daughter read since Lyn's relationship with her mother, Alison, is strained. Mothers and daughters could focus on the implications of how Lyn and Alison's choices affect one another and how family member can help to provide emotional assistance to one another.
QUOTES OF NOTE:
"Joe Byers introduced neo-gladiator sport into American life to involve teenage boys in a new form of athletic competition that would be exhilarating while releasing aggressive energy in a safe, clean way. He hoped there would be less need for war over time, especially for useless, savage wars like Vietnam" (p. 1).
"No man is allowed to hold your dowry bracelet, except your father. If a man holds your dowry bracelet he's required, according to GSA law, to marry you. Bylaw 87" (p. 55).
"Sometimes I dream of becoming a gladiator" (p. 100).
"Uber lunges in an effort to grab my arm. Tripping over my dress, I sail forward and land stomach first.
I begin to think our relationship is purely physical" (p. 137).
TASTY RATING: !!!!
Learn more about Girl in the Arena and Lise Haines (who you can follow on Twitter) from the other book bloggers on tour:
The 160 Acre Woods, A Patchwork of Books, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Book Buzz, KidzBookBuzz.com, Maw Books Blog, My Own Little Corner of the World, Reading is My Superpower, The Hungry Readers
Also, check back here tomorrow, when I'll be posting an email interview I was lucky to conduct with Lise Haines.
P.S. I was given a free copy of this book through Bloomsbury USA along with the other tour members.