Book #36 of 2016: Arena by Holly Jennings

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A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming…

Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She’s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier…

The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.

The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside…

I received this book through NetGalley for an honest review. I was not otherwise compensated.

Let me start by saying, if you read the blurb the way I did, you may be a bit disappointed. The book is not a dystopian or a Hunger Games like book where there is a revolution against a larger government. That isn’t to say the book isn’t good.

It is. I was pleasantly surprised with what I had in my hands. The book deals with hard issues and does it in an almost young adult way. However, I would put this in New Adult fantasy. The issues of partying, drugs, violence, addiction, and corruption is in here.

I didn’t feel there was a clear antagonist. Wait, that’s not a good way of putting it. You do know what the antagonist is and you are given a face for it, but the face you are given isn’t the only face in the antagonistic force. I would say the main antagonist is business corruption and how far a business would go for money.

In that, there is a revolution of sorts. But it isn’t a huge government overhaul with millions of causualties type of revolution. There is fighting, but it is all virtual. I was hoping for the virtual fighting to start becoming reality, but that didn’t happen. Maybe in a different book.

However, I did enjoy this book. The pace is fast and the characters were decent. I like that we see the rise, fall, and rise again of the main character Kali. Her change is interesting and shows a part of life only some in Hollywood would probably understand best.

The book was thought provoking for me. I found myself wanting to read the books Kali had read. I want to find my own balance in life. Though I don’t have an addiction (my husband may debate that with my love for books), I could relate well with Kali.

There was romance in the book and it is a big part, but some people may not care for it. The romance was more of a gradual friendship and then something stronger. It is through the similar difficulties that the lovers find a connection. I found the support they had for each other, while still being themselves and showing their annoyance for each other, as a good touch. It was realistic.

In all, it wasn’t a bad Sci-Fi. It dealt with heavy things with a heavy dose of entertainment. I could see the world Jennings crafted. I liked this book a lot.

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