Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

After the death of her mother’s seventh husband in the gladiatorial arena, a teenage girl finds herself betrothed to his killer–unless she can fight her way out of it.

When I first picked up Girl in the Arena, I was expecting some kind of Hunger Games ripoff. That’s not a bad thing, per se–I love those kinds of books. But my expectations weren’t that high, and so I was more than pleasantly surprised when I discovered how original, complex, and downright literary Girl in the Arena was.

Lyn’s world is insular and rule-driven. Her first father was one of the first Gladiators, back when the movement was still underground, and after he died, her mother Allison went on marrying Gladiator after Gladiator. Now on her seventh husband, Gladiator rules dictate that should he die, she will not be allowed to remarry.

Allison has always defined herself as a Glad wife, and hopes that Lyn will follow in her footsteps. So when Tommy is slain in the ring by young fighter Uber and, in a quirk of Glad rules Lyn ends up engaged to her father’s killer, Allison wants Lyn to go along with it. But Lyn has no intention of being another Glad wife–until the GSA invokes an obscure rule and threatens to take away their home and institutionalize her autistic brother. Now Lyn seems trapped, until she concocts a plan to fight for her freedom–to the death.

Girl in the Arena is a heartbreakingly sad book, filled with poignant emotions that are so human, despite the absurd premise. I really bought Lyn’s dilemma, thanks to Haines’s skillful characterizations. Haines plays against type and conjures up a finale that is suspenseful, scary, tragic, and inspiring all at once. Honestly, this is the kind of YA I’d like to see a whole lot more of–imaginative yet grounded in reality, genre-based but not derivative. Love it!

Check out the other bloggers on the tour!

The 160 Acre Woods
A Patchwork of Books
All About Children’s Books
Becky’s Book Reviews
Fireside Musings
Homeschool Book Buzz
Maw Books Blog
My Own Little Corner of the World
Reading is My Superpower
Through a Child’s Eyes

Thanks to Bloomsbury USA for generously providing me with an ARC of this book for review.

6 thoughts on “Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines”

  1. Great review! I really enjoyed this book. I’ve never read Hunger Games so I couldn’t compare (or contrast) to it.

    I was shocked that I enjoyed this book as much as I did. It didn’t “sound” like my kind of book. I’m so glad I gave it a chance!!

    Happy Reading!

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