Explanation of rating
Summary: Eighteen-year-old Lyn G. is the daughter of seven gladiators - her birth father having been an original Glad, and after his death her mother Allison married six more - all champion Glads in the quickly-popularized sport. In this barely-futuristic time, the fighting matches have fit their way into the world's culture and hold a reality-tv-like popularity [a step above that, actually. Snookie has less power in Haine's world]. Lyn's mother bases her identity upon the Glad culture and pressures her daughter to immerse herself as well... which doesn't sit well with our protagonist (a self-proclaimed passifist).
Lyn's most recent father, Tommy G., is also the most popular of the Glads and probably the only one that Lyn has actual affection for. He genuinely helps care for her little brother, Thad, who has a mental disability [I'm thinking Autism or Asperger's but I'm not positive] and is an occasional oracle - giving predictions that often come true. Leading up to his match, Tommy seems less sure of himself than usual. Concerned, but unable to openly voice her worry due to the Bylaws that dictate all of Glad life, Lyn gives Tommy her dowry bracelet as a good-luck token.
In the match, Tommy must fight the rising young star Uber. The summary on the back of the book already tells us that Tommy is killed - Uber picks up the bracelet that has fallen off of his opponent's wrist. It is leaked through the media that the accessory is actually Lyn's dowry and, due once again to the Bylaws, she must marry the man who just killed her father. ("No man is allowed to hold your dowry bracelet, except your father. If a man holds your dowry bracelet he's required, according to the GSA law, to marry you, Bylaw 87.")
Ceasar Inc., the agency in charge of the Gladiator Sports Associaton, essentially says Lyn must marry Uber or lose her family's home and any support previously promised for being such high-standing Glad family members. Uber tries to win Lyn over despite her aggression towards him, and Mark (Lyn's best friend) gives obvious hints about his own feeling.
The entire world has pressure on Lyn and it wears her down while she simply wants to live on her own terms. Her family is being ripped apart and she chooses to fight Uber for her right to stay single - giving Ceasar Inc. a media-frenzied event they want.
Everything builds up to the final battle the story is based upon - giving a stage for friendships, family, and morality to come into play.
Opinion: Once again I read a book purely because of the author herself. She friended me on Facebook, and since then hasn't just been "Buy my book! Buy my book!" at me - she's commented on statuses and showed that she actually reads what people have to say. Because of her personableness [ten points for vocab], I did buy her book!
It definitely was not what I originally expected. I kept hearing a lot of comparisons to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - but now that I've read GitA, I'm confused as to how people are so adamant about that! Sure, both settings are in the future (HG significantly more so), both have a powerful agency in control, both have a strong female protagonist... but all of those comparisons are so generalized! There are hundreds of novels with the same premise and just because HG is popular, people's minds jump to it more quickly. Girl in the Arena is much more unique than people give credit! You need to, shockingly, read the book to really understand what I mean.
I was waiting for a lot more action scenes, mainly because of the cover and all of the summaries I've read were focused on Lyn's fight in the arena. Instead Haines developes the relationships Lyn has with her mother, brother, friends, and Uber. The story is less about the actual fighting and more about the motives behind the gladiator sport, Lyn's power to choose for herself, and the power Ceasar holds and is gaining over people's natural rights.
Some people are aggitated over the lack of violence [you'll notice I still gave four checks for action - when there are fights, they are intense], but go into this book with a mind set for character development and growth of relationships and you won't be disappointed!
p.s. It's ironic that the sport was originally started to have boys release aggression in a safe way and maybe reduce the amount of wars fought... that didn't go according to plan obviously. I didn't know how to fit this into the review, but I just had to say it lol
p.p.s. Uber is fricken adorable.
For School? (Hey, I'm a teacher, I think about this stuff!) The writing is fantastic! The style is different from what most people are used to (i.e. No quotation marks!) but there is no confusion between what a character is actually speaking and what their actions are. This is a great example to show students how to keep voices separate and easily identifiable.
On another note, I'm a huge fan of inter-curriculum learning (using the same/similar topics in more than one subject to better re-enforce the content/concepts)! I can easily see middle-schoolers learning about Ancient Greek and Roman mythology and having this book in their Language Arts class - pointing out the similarities, the metaphors and allusions... I'd love to teach this along side a Social Studies course!