This dystopian YA novel seemed very promising, with the main character out to save her sister from slave traders in the post-apocalyptic New York City. In the summary I read online, there were also hints of a Hunger Games-esque arena where these prisoners are forced to fight for entertainment. Having loved the Hunger Games, I figured I’d give it a try. I’d recommend to others… stick to the Hunger Games.
There wasn’t anything overtly terrible about this book. The characters were okay, the plot was okay, the setting was okay, the pacing was okay. It would have been simply an “okay” book if I didn’t feel like it had all been done before, and done before in a better way. First, you have to consider the similarities from The Hunger Games…
Teenage girl fighting to provide for her family in a dystopian future? Check!
Dead father? Check!
Mother who loses it after father is gone and thereby can’t be relied upon? Check!
Teen girl puts self in danger for the sake of her younger, innocent sister? Check!
Sensitive, selfless teen boy who finds himself in same situation as teen girl? Check!
Teen girl uses her brain and specialized weapon skills to beat everyone in arena? Check!
Sensitive boy can’t handle the violence, so teen girl steps up and saves them both? Check!
Older, tougher teen boy provides love triangle between teen girl and sensitive boy? Check!
Add in there some really drawn-out car chases, some zombies (I think that’s what they were?), and the sex slave trade, and you’ve got “Arena One.”
Other things that drove me crazy…
– The main character is basically invincible. After a couple motorcycle crashes and car crashes, she has some cracked ribs, but still manages to completely wallop her opponents in the arena. At one point, she purposely crashes her speeding (over 100mph) motorcycle head-first into a speeding car, and somehow walks away from it. She also gets some sort of crazy snakebite that swells up to the size of a baseball, but has some penicillin and — bam! — instantly healed (or so it seems).
– The author had a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases. I think that she mentioned that the slave runners were sadistic or looked sadistic or had sadistic grins about half a dozen times.
– The “cliffhangers” at the end of nearly every chapter were all basically the main character thinking that she was going to die. And yet, you find out in the first paragraph of the next chapter, she’s surprised that somehow she’s not dead. And repeat.
– I almost put the book down at the arena scene. I felt like I was watching a WWE wrestling match, complete with way-out-there personalities, gimmicks, and scripts. I *think* the author was going for that kind of feel, but I’m not a wrestling fan, so I wasn’t impressed.
– The love triangle. PLEASE can we stop with love triangles?!? In one corner, you have the sensitive artist type whom the protagonist just met yesterday, but whom she really “has feelings for.” And in the other corner, you have the older tough-guy type whom the protagonist just met yesterday, but whom she really “has feelings for” as well. And even while her little sister is about to be sold into slavery, the protagonist is worried about the boys being jealous of each other and whether or not they have girlfriends waiting for them somewhere. They’re all three fine as individual characters; we don’t need to force a romance element where it’s not necessary.
Overall, it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, but I don’t plan on continuing the series, either.