A Sport to Die For

Grace S.-Staff Writer

The alternate history novel Girl in the Arena, by Lise Haines, is a story where readers are taken into a morbid society with the leading lady, Lyn. Together, the reader and Lyn discover the meaning of true sacrifice, death, and hardships. At first glance readers may think this book is an average knock-off of the famous Hunger Games Trilogy, but with a closer look, many readers discover the tantalizing effects of Haines’s masterpiece.

Girl in the Arena GS

The story starts in Cambridge, which is home to one of the most blood and culture-driven sports in the entire world: the gladiator games. Everyday fighters will go out for the pleasure of the viewers, not knowing if the fight will be their last. Theses fighters and their families are set to follow a code of laws that are non-negotiable. On a continuous cycle, Lyn cheers on her father as he fights in the games, but all the fame comes with a price. Pitted against his largest adversary yet, Lyn’s father, Tommy, will be slain in the arena by Uber. According by the Gladiator Sports Association (GSA) rule number 44, a gladiator has the right to pick up any object of the opponent in the arena. Unfortunately for Lyn, Uber picked up her dowry bracelet after the fight, causing an unlikely turn of events; Lyn must marry Uber. This conflict causes a peculiar but riveting choice for Lyn. She must choose the corporate-business life of fame, fortune, and blood set up by law or the independent life of a future college student. Lyn struggles with the concept of how women are supposed to act in the gladiator culture. The wives and daughters of these gladiators are clever, rich, and glamorous women. The 18 year-old veracious heroine is set in her ways about separating herself from the subculture and life of being a gladiator wife.

This conflicted heroine, Lyn, is a lovely girl who has the characteristics of stubbornness, rash thinking, and loyalty towards her family. The dynamic of the novel is the feeling of doing what is valiant while retaining one’s morals. Lyn struggles with distinguishing between what choice is right for her heart and what is right for her family. Lyn’s edgy side shows the characteristic of a true hero and fighter. Reader Selene Rayburn spoke, saying, “I love how in the book there is a strong leading female who fights for honor, not love.”  Lyn is more than a fighter; she is a gladiator. Rayburn added, “The emotional detailing the author gives can really show me what Lyn is going through and make this book come alive.”  Continuing in the novel, Lyn fights herself with the decision to enter the Arena to fight on her own against Uber. In turn, that internal conflict goes against the morals she has gone along with her whole life. The quest of the story deals with Lyn finding her independence and eventually the initiation of the real world as the leading hero in the novel.

Readers can get an inside look on the background of the heroine’s life as they see the psychological wound that Tommy’s death left on Lyn. However, she was not the only one tormented by the tragic loss. Lyn’s mother, Allison, is a fame-consumed individual who is desperate to keep her status as a gladiator wife. Tommy was Allison’s seventh husband, and a gladiator wife can only be married seven times; Allison loses her status, causing the family to become bankrupt quickly, and the home-life of Lyn is quickly eradicated. However, this tragic event only fuels her desire to challenge and beat Uber so she can gain back all she has lost.

The death of Tommy represents the malicious culture within Lyn’s modern world, yet the death also brings back the history of ancient gladiators. The Gladiator Sports Association shows the darker aspects of an ancient lifestyle where gladiators give up their lives willingly as show of sport, but in the novel, the gladiators fight for money and popularity too. The televised fights morph these humans into deadly killers. Some of the raw tones suggest just how gruesome the topic of gladiator fame can become for an individual back in time; the motto is “blood for fame and fortune.” The sport is a sickening cruelty of rebirth and death of Roman gladiators. These components are what draw readers in the most with this novel as well as the characteristic of Lyn’s personality.

Readers are brought into the deep thoughts of Lyn’s own mind. This is where readers will begin to connect as they witness the emotion and edgy attitude from Lyn. Mari Ewing said, “When reading this book, I felt as though the amount of thought put into Lyn’s character was brilliant and it made Lyn seem more realistic for me.” Lyn’s attitude toward her fight for freedom also creates the conflict of civil rights.

The theme of civil rights in Girl in the Arena are diminished once the corporate company, Gladiator Sports Association, twists the normal aspects of human life and creates a set of laws for the gladiators and the families of gladiators. The GSA dictates the everyday life of these characters and shows how the morals of the world are fading slowly. On the topic of morals, Ewing commented, “The realistic themes in this book show how our society is slowly losing focus of what is important and represents how people are tempted by greed.” People will do anything for money, and what better way to show it than the sport of fighting to the death?

Readers will fall in love with the dynamic story of a girl looking for her freedom and peace of an average life. The themes of cruelty, death, and courage will keep readers biting their nails until the very last page. People will not be disappointed when they read Girl in the Arena, which can be found at any bookstore. Also check out Haines’s other books about feminine power.

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