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Girl in the Arena


Girl in the Arena

Eighteen-year-old Lyn has lived her entire life in the world of gladiators, and this modern-day version of the sport has risen in popularity to rival that of football. Men or women can compete, although the men’s division has higher priority. Matches aren’t necessarily to the death, but the crowds do enjoy that aspect. Entry into the association is voluntary; many train for years to compete, while some inmates on death row volunteer to compete as well.

Lyn was born into this lifestyle. Her mother is a gladiator’s wife with her first husband being Lyn’s father. After he was killed in the arena, her mother married another, soon becoming a widow again. In total, Lyn has had seven gladiator fathers. She knows every rule issued by the Gladiator Sports Association, and there are quite a few. If a person chooses to participate in the gladiator sports or become part of a gladiator’s family, it’s almost like joining an entirely different culture. 

Lyn and her special needs brother adore their stepfather, Tommy. But in front of their eyes and the entire world, a competitor named Uber extinguishes Tommy’s life in the arena. The Gladiator Sports Association has about a million laws, one of which states that a woman can’t marry more than seven gladiators; Lyn’s mother, who has suffered emotional problems in the past, drops into a deep depression. Another states that when a gladiator steals a girl’s dowry bracelet, the girl is forced to marry him. Lyn had just happened to give her bracelet to Tommy before the match for good luck, and Uber picked it up in the arena.

It doesn’t take long for the gladiator-hungry press to figure out to whom the bracelet belonged. Lyn must now marry Uber, but she refuses to wed her father’s murderer. Instead, she proposes an alternate solution: she will meet Uber in the arena and fight him to the death.

The storyline moves quickly with a few clever surprises slipped in to give it an extra kick. Lise Haines offers a unique look at today’s society and its blood-thirsty cravings for violent entertainment. She has an exceptional talent for writing interesting and well-developed characters, especially the strong, independent and family-devoted Lyn. She also embraces the character of Lyn’s little brother, who is a special needs child, with patience, understanding and warmth. In addition, Haines implements a technique of using the hyphen to indicate conversation instead of quotes. I found it a bit distracting at first, but soon became accustomed to it and realized it to be unique and fresh.

Although this is Haines’s first book for young adults, her new fans will be anxiously hoping that she is inspired to write many more.


Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on October 18, 2011

Girl in the Arena
by Lise Haines

  • Publication Date: October 13, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
  • ISBN-10: 1599903725
  • ISBN-13: 9781599903729