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Girl in the Arena

Girl in the Arena

3.3 93
by Lise Haines

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During the week, Lyn lives in a big house in Cambridge and hangs out with friends in Harvard Square. But over the weekend, she cheers her father on as he gears up for neo-gladiator competition-a high-profile televised blood sport that rivals the NFL. Lyn's father is the top player in the league, and the paparazzi that have always swarmed him have started to dog Lyn


During the week, Lyn lives in a big house in Cambridge and hangs out with friends in Harvard Square. But over the weekend, she cheers her father on as he gears up for neo-gladiator competition-a high-profile televised blood sport that rivals the NFL. Lyn's father is the top player in the league, and the paparazzi that have always swarmed him have started to dog Lyn's every move. All this fame comes with another price--Lyn's family lives with the constant presence of violence, uncertainty, and a strict cultural code set by the Gladiator Sports Association. When a skilled young fighter slays Lyn's father, the GSA imposes an unthinkable sentence-Lyn must marry her father's murderer. Though her mother has made a career out of marrying into Glad culture, Lyn is prepared to do whatever it takes to claim her independence. Even if it means going into the arena herself. . . .

Lise Haines' debut novel, a dark satire for our time, is a mesmerizing look at a modern world addicted to violence, fame, and greed-a world eerily close to our own.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Haines's first book for teens offers an altered version of the modern world, with a public hungry for violent, on-camera combat. Lyn, the “daughter of seven gladiators,” has grown up in Glad culture with a mother who has made a career out of being a Glad wife—she is resigned to public life and the way TV audiences relish making sport out of her family's many tragedies. When Lyn's seventh stepfather is killed in the arena, rules dictate that she be betrothed to her father's murderer, the gladiator Uber. The spotlight turns on Lyn as cameras follow this unlikely, staged courtship, as well as Lyn's eventual trip into the arena to face her fiancé. The novel's present-day Boston setting and pop culture references (designers like Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier dress the gladiators) feel off, pulling readers out of the story. Haines's neo-Gladiator world hangs on readers' ability to reimagine today's celebrity-obsessed culture accommodating gruesome, televised fights to the death, and shaky world-building makes this a tall order. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)
VOYA - Cindy Faughnan
In the future portrayed in this novel, gladiators are revered by sports fans while they fight to the death. Lyn is the daughter of seven gladiators, six who have died and her current father Tommy. Lyn's mother is the perfect gladiator wife, who hopes that Lyn will attend college to become a Glad wife as well. Lyn worries about what will happen if Tommy dies, leaving her alone with her mother who has violent mood swings and her younger brother who has special needs. She gives Tommy her dowry bracelet for good luck, but when his hand is cut off during the match and his opponent, Uber, picks up the bracelet, she knows that the rules say she must marry him. Rather than submit to the regulations governing gladiators' wives, she offers to fight Uber herself in a highly televised match. The book lives up to its billing, "A Novel Containing Intense Prolonged Sequences of Disaster and Peril." The realistic characters and problems are easily understood by teens even though it takes place in an alternate future. The Boston setting and the idea of sports being widely televised and watched are familiar. Lyn struggles to escape the life her mother has led, but she also wants to make sure to care for her mother and brother after the death of her seventh father. Although the omission of quotation marks makes the book difficult to read at first, the action, dilemmas, love interests, family, and glimpses of a possible future make it an excellent choice for all readers. Reviewer: Cindy Faughnan
VOYA - Jenna Yee
Lyn is the daughter of seven gladiator fathers and struggles to live within the strict rules of Gladiator life. The story is told in a slightly confusing way as it doesn't use quotation marks, but if you can get past that, it's interesting to read about Lyn and how she questions the Gladiator life she knows. People who like girl-empowering stories or characters who are not afraid to stand up for themselves will enjoy this book. Reviewer: Jenna Yee, Teen Reviewer
Children's Literature - Julia Beiker
Gory and violently bloody scenes, poor subject matter, and unrealistic plots go together to create this raunchy book. Our young heroine Lyn finds herself in a situation where she has to either marry her step father's killer or kill the man herself. The catch is that the gladiator killer grows on her and makes it tough to follow through with her original plans. If that is not enough happening in the book, her brother seems to be autistic and her mother is a weak person with mental issues. Now throw in that Lyn's world is controlled by the Gladiator Sports Association so the reader seems to be a part of a reality show in book form. Of course, Lyn goes the distance and secretly trains to become a real gladiator which we would all encourage our daughters to become. Nothing about our main character shows a typical teenager with normal dysfunctional issues. This book tops the scales in weak characters and poor plotting. I can say that I have never ready anything like this. The author Lisa Haines tries to go off the typical radar for teen books and comes up with something entirely original, but it falls flat when she reduces her reader base to 5% or less because of subject matter. I do not see teenagers today wearing too many all-star wrestling t-shirts. This book is also a slow read because too many sub-plots interrupt the main conflict and make the reader go back and rethink what has happened. This book leaves me disillusioned in the teen market. Reviewer: Julia Beiker
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—In a not-too-distant future Boston, 18-year-old Lyn has come of age in the male-dominated, corporate-controlled culture of the neo-gladiator lifestyle. All seven of her fathers were champion Glads, trained warriors in the style of their ancient Roman predecessors. Lyn's mother knows how to be the perfect Glad wife in order to provide a comfortable life for her daughter and for eight-year-old Thad. Then, Lyn's last father dies in combat, and her family will be abandoned by the Gladiator Sports Association unless she marries Uber, the fighter who killed him. Her mother is not permitted to marry again. What follows is Lyn's journey to autonomy and a new life for herself and Thad after her mother commits suicide. Pop-culture references make Lyn's world seem familiar to readers, and clever new technologies make the story plausible without taking it too far into science fiction. Haines's protagonist is street-smart, socially conscious, and wise all the way through, even when she begins to have feelings for Uber. Readers will appreciate that her victory comes from life on her own terms and not merely romance.—Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Lyn is the daughter of seven neo-gladiators, the men her mother married, one after another, until each died in the arena for the pleasure of the national TV audience. Lyn's world, so like ours in most ways, features mortal combats by top athletes and the occasional death-row inmate. Lyn's entire life is governed both by the bylaws of the Gladiator Wives Association and the punishing contracts with Caesar's, the company that owns the sport. When her seventh father dies, the mustache-twirlingly evil company tries to force Lyn into a widely televised marriage with the gladiator who killed him. Only the marriage can protect her emotionally unstable mother and cognitively disabled baby brother. Lyn rings true, not least in the conflict between pacifism and her bone-deep allegiance to gladiator culture. The world building, however, carries less resonance. Detailed histories draw attention to logical lapses, such as Caesar's immense, inexplicable legal power. Despite obvious comparisons, this is a far less sympathetic (or believable) world than that of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (2008, 2009). Entertainingly gruesome and emotionally resonant-but ultimately contrived. (Science fiction. 11-13)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet 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.


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Girl in the Arena 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 92 reviews.
Awesomeness1 More than 1 year ago
I have really conflicted feelings about this book. I was expecting some cheap Hunger Games rip-off, but it wasn't like that at all. This book is about Lyn, who has had seven gladiator fathers, due to her mothers career as a Glad wife. As a substitute to war, and entire Glad culture has arose, blood sport being just as common as football. Lyn's life is ruled by bylaws put forth by the Gladiator Sports Association. It is these bylaws that say she is required, through a chain of unfortunate events, to marry Uber, the warrior who defeated her seventh father in the arena. Rather than give in to these demands, she proposes an alternative: fighting him in the arena. Initially, I thought I wasn't going to like this. At first it was because I thought it was a rip-off. Then it was because the writing and formatting was odd and distracting. And then it was because I realized that the action would be slow-coming. But then, about half-way through the book, I realized I kinda liked it. Lyn, the narrator was endearing, and the writing was starting to grow on me. I stopped with the exectations and just went with the flow. By the end, I didn't hate it as much as I did to start with. The writing is not typical of a young-adult book, and that threw me off for a while. I appreciated that the author was doing something different. And I shall warn everyone right now, this book has no quotation marks. This drove me insane to begin with, and I was frustrated with the author. I mean, why couldn't she use quotation marks like a normal author? But in no time, I didn't even realize the difference. I liked Lyn. She was endearing. She wasn't a Mary Sue, yet she wasn't a stereotypical bad-ass robot. I understood her motives. But I did not understand her brother. Her little brother, who is autistic, is also supposedly a prophet/oracle. I thought this book was set in an alternative now. I don't get the whole mysticism thing. And I also didn't get how they had things like You Tube still, but also virtual living machines that can create a functioning virtual being. But I did like the whole history of GSA. That does seem odd enough to be true. Don't expect a hardcore thrilling action novel. Despite being about violence, this book had very little action. Lyn wasn't even in the arena until the final pages. I think this is misleading on the marketer's part. This book is way more contemplative than it sounds. I got bored in some places, but I was overall absorbed. I am still confused about my feeling for this book, so I apologize for the possible wishy-washiness of this review. I can see how some people hate it, some people love it. It's an odd little book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I seen the cover of this book and thought, "Perfect! I LOVE Ancient Roman culture and gladiators." Then I read the synposis and thought "Sounds reminiscient of The Hunger Games...and I definitely loved The Hunger Games." So I bought it, eager to get reading. I was sorely disappointed. I'm not exactly sure why they titled it "Girl in the Arena" it would have been more appropriatly titled "Growing up as a daughter of Gladiators". I felt that both the title and synopsis were both misleading. This isn't a story of a girl fighting in the arena (perhaps only fighting against a figurative arena of rules and bylaws of the Gladiator culture), but rather the emotional toll that one would endure growing up in this type of a culture. Haines is extremely detailed which I felt was sometimes to a fault although it allowed for clear imagery. The majority of the book is of Lyn reminiscing about her past interactions with her seven gladiator fathers (6 of which were stepfathers, 1 biological). Because she spent so much time in the past it seemed somewhat slow moving at times. I was on the verge of putting the book down so many times but I just kept thinking to myself, ok its about to get good. Unfortunetly it never really did until the last 50 pages or so. I also felt that at times the book was some what preachy. It's very apparent how the author feels about war (not that anyone likes it) and government by the sly comments she would make. To top it off the book seemed unrealistic. The setting for this book is America today. It was hard for me to buy into the idea. I had assumed that it was going to be set in Ancient Roman times or even if it was set in the future like Hunger Games I would have found it more believable. I just couldn't see the Glad Corp getting away with what they did in today's world, nor can I see the public being so ruthless and callous to enjoy such brutality (regardless if it has happened in the past or not). One example being how the Glad Corp tried to increase the likelihood of fatalaties of the spectators by trying to encourage people to leave the arena in a rush. I just couldn't bring myself to believe it under the circumstances that she created. The final complaint I have about Girl In the Arena, is how Haines decided not to use quotation marks. It was confusing at worse and annoying at best. So in light of all these shortfalls I must warn you that if you are one to enjoy action, romance, or suspense I would bypass this book...it lacks all three.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was different than what i thought it would be. Through most of the book, i thought it would lead up to something like the Hunger Games based off the title and what i had read about the book, but it wasnt. The author used a different writting style which throws you off at first, but then you get used to it. I really liked the message of the book because it makes you think about how society sells violence because people love it so much. There were a lot of random stories from Lyn's past that she talks about, making the book kind of slow at some points, but overall it was a great book and i would recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a punch to the gut but one I didn't know I needed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't know what made me pick this book up. The cover is kind of cheesy and it really doesn't give you much of a synopsis. But I'm glad I did. I read a lot, but not as much lately since I started college. And, I usually don't read YA. But this was a refreshing, emotional, in-your-face kind of story. The characters are well-developed, Lyn as the strong and edgy protagonist, and Uber as the painfully sweet and misunderstood guy that just wants her to like him. It's quickly paced, and I was very invested by the end. I tore through it, even though I really should have been writing a paper, but it was just so GOOD. I needed to know what was going to happen. I don't give this five stars because it was a perfect book. I really wish the ending had been more conclusive, or that there was the promise of a sequel. I give it five stars because I don't think it's getting nearly as much recognition as it deserves (probably because of the cheesy cover) and I think it was just as good as, if not better than Blood Red Road. It is NOT a rip off of the Hunger Games (though if you like those books, I think you'd enjoy this).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. Sometimes it was slow-paced, and the qoutations thing threw me for a loop for a little while, but I liked the plot, idea, and conclusion. This is not the Hunger Games or Twilight love triangle. It is not the typical girl power book. The author highlights real problems which realistic characters must deal with while hiding the true ending from the reader. It shows the problems that we have as a society, and reflects them on a sort of alternate/future world. However, it also gives a more positive way to deal with/view society. Some parts are too gory or traumatic (realistic) for some people, but I would definitely recommend this book. I hope there were no spoilers!
ElizabethSES More than 1 year ago
I love this book and this writer! Lise Haines always surprises you and always moves you with her vivid edgy prose. Here in her most daring work yet, she creates a heroine you can truly 'root for' in an all-too-real Arena. Haines dares to imagine our own violent and glitzy culture with the 'dials turned up' past 11. This book is marketed for YA and I agree teenage girls will connect to Lyn and will totally jump into her world. But readers beyond teens will plunge in too for the wild ride, the wonderful writing and the jolting message underlying it all about where we are all heading-- So bounce right into this ARENA.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i cant wait for chapter two
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Will e ee
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read head line
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is interesting in concept but the author isnt a good enough writer to tell it. The relationships were not believeable, often too much background was thrown into minor moments, and it felt as if the protagonist Lynn spent more time saying what she would like to do rather than actually taking action and making moves. Disappointing overall, would not recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was good. Not great, but still good. I felt immediate sympathy for the main character, Lynn from the get-go. In retrospect, she slightly reminds me of Katniss, but she still stands firm on her own as herself. I liked the fast pace of the book-it kept me hooked to the point that I read it all in a day. This book touches on the humanity of forcing people to fight to the death, but it didn't go as in-depth, so don't expect a full psycho-analysis. My biggest disappointment was the rushed ending, leaving most of Lynne's problems only partially resolved. However, I do believe that was intentional on the point of the author to try to make it more real. It still felt like the ends were too loose though. I would recommend this to people who aren't looking for it to be just like the Hunger Games, because it isn't. It's a stand-alone book; good in its own way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Incredibly boring.There was maybe two points in the book where I actually got interested. I am a very visual person when reading and like to picture the story in my head but was very unable to do that with this book. Not to mention the way the dialogue was written (without quotations) made everything that much more difficult. I was very excited to read this book because of the synopsis and what could potentially happen. I was extremely interested in the love interest but was sorely disappointed after finishing the book. There was a noticeable lack of romance and I felt the loose end it was her best friend was poorly tied up. Also there was no real ending to the main romance between Lyn and Uber. In fact I didn't think there was a real conclusion to any of the plot points in the book. It wasn't a cliff hanger meant to lead into another book either. Even if it was and another book were to come out I would strongly advise against reading it based on the way this book turned out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gr8 book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my second time writing a book review so it may not be that great, anyways i'll try to do my best. Summery: This story is told and seen from Lyn's point of view. Lyn is the main character, an 18 year old girl. She has grown up in a world full of fighting and has just lost her seventh father and she struggles trying to take care of her slowly crumbling family. Becuase of a law in her culture she is now technicaly engaged and her fiancee is the one who killed her father?! My opinion: This book has made me laugh so many times while also having a sad plot. I think this book is definatly worth reading though it was very short with only about 250 pages. I also love all the supporting characters too. There were parts of the book that did bore me going on and on about stuff... but all in all it was a good book though i have read better ones.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was okay, an interesting concept, but i thought it was boring and confusing at parts. Not the best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Complete and total waste! This book was SO excrutiatingly SLOW and boring. I an angry with myself for reading the whole thing. Such a waste of my life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago