Review: Girl In The Arena

girl in the arenaIt’s a fight to the death – on live TV – when a gladiator’s daughter steps into the arena.

Lyn is a neo-gladiator’s daughter, through and through.  Her mother has made a career out of marrying into the high-profile world of televised blood sport, and the rules of the Gladiator Sports Association are second nature to their family.

Always lend ineffable confidence to the gladiator. Remind him constantly of his victories. And most importantly: Never leave the stadium when your father is dying.

The rules help the family survive, but rules – and the GSA – can also turn against you. When a gifted young fighter kills Lyn’s seventh father, he also captures Lyn’s dowry bracelet, which means she must marry him…

This review is spoiler-free!

I was SO EXCITED to read this book, you guys. And now I don’t know why. It is frequently compared to The Hunger Games and while I wasn’t expecting exactly the same plot, I was expecting a similar level of awesomeness.

Sadly, Girl in the Arena did not live up to my hopes. I liked some of it, but there were other parts that I just didn’t “get.” Let’s take a look.


The most interesting characters were underused.

I liked Tommy (Lyn’s father), Thad (her brother), and Allison (her mother). But their roles within the story were disappointingly tiny.

It’s hardly a spoiler to say that Tommy died – it’s right there in the book blurb. Well, after he died my interest in the story plummeted. There were still a few characters that I liked, but his relationship with Lyn was one of the best parts of the story and I missed it.

Meanwhile, Thad can predict the future. This should’ve been amazing, but… his prophecies just weren’t that shocking or dramatic.

Finally, I thought the author should have discussed Allison’s depression in more depth. Overall, I thought many potentially fascinating aspects of the characters’ personalities were not explored as thoroughly as they could have been.

The dialogue was hard to read.

Most authors write dialogue like this:

“Quotation marks are excellent,” nevillegirl said. “Please use them.”

Lise Haines, however, writes it like this:

-If one doesn’t use quotation marks, it becomes difficult to know when dialogue ends, nevillegirl said. -So please don’t use dashes instead.

I just don’t get it! Look, I understand wanting a story to be different. But authors’ first priority should be to create unique characters and plots. Substance over style, not the other way around. The lack of quotation marks made the story hard to read and there was just no reason to leave them out.

I won’t compare the plot of Girl in the Arena to the plot of The Hunger Games, but I will compare their styles. The Hunger Games is another stylistically odd book, written in first-person present-tense. But it works, because Suzanne Collins had a strong, excellent plot so the style didn’t distract from the story.

The plot wandered.

I’ll admit it – this is something I sometimes struggle with in my own writing. But I’m not a published author, am I? In my opinion, by the time one is published one’s plotting should be a little more polished.

Girl in the Arena had entire chapters that went off on wild tangents. I mean, what was the point of that flashback chapter where Lyn visited Rome and snogged a hot guy? The hot guy never appeared after that, so… I don’t know why he was included.

The ending was a let-down.

No spoilers here, though! I’ll just say that the finale involved the same rebelling-against-the-system that The Hunger Games featured, but Girl in the Arena was less impressive. The ending was abrupt and it didn’t seem like Lyn’s ultra-violent society would react the way they did.


Imagine someone running. They take off from the starting line, run really quickly and gracefully, perform a few jumps and flips, and then fall flat on their face. That basically describes this book. The story began REALLY WELL and I was so excited to read it, but in the end… well, I won’t be rereading Girl in the Arena. 

Sigh. Being excited about books is wonderful. Being disappointed because a book didn’t live up to your expectations? Not so much.

If you’ve read Girl in the Arena, what was your opinion?

Rating: 2.5/5


About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
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9 Responses to Review: Girl In The Arena

  1. magicfishy says:

    Hm. I think I’ve seen this book before, but I’ve never read it, so this comment probably has nothing relevant to say. Instead, let’s talk about international punctuation, I guess.

    Apparently the style that you’re talking about is called a quotation dash (thanks, Wikipedia) and it’s a real thing. I’ve seen something similar (though not the exact same as your example) in French before, but I didn’t know that anyone used it in English writing. Also, there’s a whole Wikipedia page for International Variation In Quotation Marks?,_non-English_usage


  2. orphu44 says:

    But you don’t use the closing quotation dash in French. In English it would just be a stylistic thing, anyway, since you’re meant to just use those rounded quotation marks in English.
    And I’ve never read The Girl in the Arena, so I can’t offer any opinions on the actual plot, just the use of quotation marks.

  3. Charley R says:

    Ah – is the author European? That’s how they do dialogue over there. Judging by her surname she may be German or somesuch.

    Sounds like a bit of a sad case of a book, this one – lots of promise, glorious faceplant of fail results. That said, as you didn’t mention any atrocious love triangles or somesuch, at least it has that going for it? Sort of? xP

    • nevillegirl says:

      I have no idea. Although… if it were an American version of the book (which is was), why wouldn’t they Americanize the punctuation? They did that for Inkheart.

      Yep! 😀 There weren’t any love triangles!

      • Charley R says:

        IDK, I guess they don’t want to look like they’re spoon-feeding the American public too much (like they did with the Harry Potter books grumble grumble)? No idea.

        YAY NO LOVE TRIANGLES! *ecstatic*

  4. themagicviolinist says:

    I agree with everything you said! I had such higher hopes for this book, but I didn’t end up liking it as much as I thought I would. The beginning was good, the middle was slow, and the end was downright disappointing. 😛

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