Monday, July 4, 2011

Girl In The Arena: Review


Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: October 2009
Hardcover: 336 pages

Author: Lisa Haines
Synopsis:It’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… For fans of The Hunger Games and Fight Club, Lise Haines’ debut novel is a mesmerizing look at a world addicted to violence—a modern world that’s disturbingly easy to imagine.
 
Girl In The Arena is such a strange book. First of all, I don't know what to make of this book because everything about it is so in-between. The world building is average bordering on good, the romance is average bordering on good, the character development, the dialogue, the action: everything is average. While gladiator sport and a world that's insistent on violent reality shows and spilling blood for enjoyment is always enjoyable to a true Hunger Games fan like me, the averageness of this book really turned me off.
I'm going to go for the good first. The twist the author gave to the gladiator sport we've all read and maybe studied about is pretty nice. There's Gladiator Sports Association, Glad-wives, a code of conduct for gladiators, huge stadiums where cheering fans watch people get mutilated and killed....but the problem here is this: the society is not a completely dystopian one as in Hunger Games. The Glad culture is written almost like the steampunk culture of today, a subculture that exists along our normal lives. Which means, in easier terms, People Killing Each other for Sport in a World that has Facebook, Second Life and normal high school. You see what's slightly off here? If Glad sport is a subculture, wouldn't a government stop it? But a government is nowhere in the picture, only the big bad Caesars Inc is, and so teenagers and old men and young men and women can fight and kill each other in giant arenas. And no one gives a damn. See what I mean by world development lacking? If there was a setting like in other dystopias with a radically different world and a radically different society, this story would be perfect. But in a world that's nearly exactly like ours (except for maybe advanced virtual reality) I can't really see anyone allowing this. And even if I can, that is ruined by the fact that the Glad culture is said to be a subculture followed only by some people. Maybe it's my problem.
Then there are the characters. Lyn is in a similar situation like Katniss in Hunger Games. Distraught mother+ violent society+ helpless younger sibling+ stuck in a celebrity marriage contract she didn't want but has to go through with= what? Lyn or Katniss? That said, I actually liked Lyn. She's engaging, her thoughts interesting and her actions pretty kickass awesome. Then there's Allison, Lyn's Mom. Another good character, wife to seven gladiators. Then there's Thad, Lyn's differently-abled brother. Here, the book grows weird. Thad makes predictions. So is this really sci-fi or paranormal or sci-fi gone paranormal? I was hoping there will be explanation for this other than the single nonsensical line the author gave us, but this is a standalone novel. Weird.

Uber, the main guy in this book, basically put me off with his name. Uber?? Come on. I'm not nitpicking, this is just a random thought, but UBER? Oh, man. He seemed a sweet, ass-kicking, blood-spilling oaf and also quite lovable, so I'll forgive U-B-E-R. God, that name~~
The other characters, save for Mark, are slightly weird. I have no idea why they are in the book. And the whole bit with virtual reality is just slightly too weird if the author is keeping the book in this immediate future. We aren't that developed. And there will be other developments if the book was actually meant to be in a more distant future, which is not mentioned in the book.

With all its flaws however, Girl In The Arena is good because it interested me, kept me turning the pages to see WHAT NEXT? I can't say the same for Lauren Kate's Passion (God, it's dragging, dragging, making me tear my hair out). I liked this book. Wish it were a little less like Hunger Games in terms of characters. And more like Hunger Games in terms of flawlessness and keeping a fixed time frame. But the best thing about this book is also that while the other dystopian novels are more about action and gore, this book is a little inclined to the family-life side. Expect a family-based, forced-to-grow-up, slightly weird storyline if you pick this up.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Book Review: Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her. Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right?

REVIEW:

Ultraviolet is not out in the USA yet, and I got the UK version.
Let's start this review by saying that this book was the first I read on the neurological condition called Synesthesia. I knew about synesthesia before, I'm a borderline sound-color syn ,and I was thinking of writing a book on it, but then I came across Ultraviolet.
Honestly, the first half of this book is just AMAZING. Alison Jeffries, as the protagonist, is intensely relatable, and we find ourselves completely hooked in her story. Alison and her relationship with her family is what I thought was the real moving point of this story. Oh, there's a missing girl who Alison claims spontaneously combusted, there's a hot psychiatrist named Sebastian Faraday, there's an interesting pyromaniac and lots of other characters who aren't the usual stereotypical young adult types, but it is Alison and her mother, their rather complex relationship that I felt touched me the most.
Alison has been different all her life. She attaches names with colors, with taste, with sound. She sees colors for sound, for pain. She hears the songs of the stars. Such a premise lets Anderson write a beautiful viewpoint for Alison. Her world is at once more terrifying and more beautiful than ours could ever be. Victoria is the popular girl in school, but she is a cliche breaker. She's not exactly beauty without brains, and she's not exactly a bitch, either. Alison made her combust spontaneously. Or at least that's what Alison thinks.
Dumped in a psychiatric facility and convinced of her sanity, Alison fights against her doctor and her parents for release from the facility. Here again, the persepective in which Alison sees her mother is interesting. She loves her Mom, and we can completely relate to this feeling, and we just keep rooting for everything to become all right in the end.
Sebastian Faraday as Alison's "psychiatrist" is interesting. Especially because he clears a lot of things up, ties up a lot of loose ends. And, oh yeah, his violet eyes help too. Anderson uses some real good prose to describe Faraday. If I remember right, Alison thought his voice was like "Dark chocolate over velvet". Okay, yum!
My main problem with Ultraviolet was that it took something like a 180 degree turn in the latter half of the book. I expected something paranormal or sci-fi because people don't just, you know, disintegrate. But I didn't expect aliens, abandoned spacestations and time-warps/ wormholes. I'd have actually liked this book to just be about Alison's acceptance of herself, and more importantly, her family's acceptance of her.
But you should read this book. Because first of all, it's sort of informative about some neurological conditions. And second, it is BEAUTIFULLY written.
I learned that Ultraviolet will have a sequel, tentatively named "Quicksilver" which is shocking because I was so sure this book is a standalone! I did NOT expect Quicksilver. I'd actually have been happy with this book's sweet, slightly bitter and altogether gorgeously written ending.

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