When I realized it had been awhile since I posted a book review, I went back to the blog to check just how long it had been and was horrified to see my last book review went up on November 15- nearly two and half months ago. It isn’t that I haven’t read anything since November, but somehow I’ve been lazy and not written up any of them, good or bad. (And boy, there have been some doozies on either end of that spectrum.) It is probably not a good idea to go back and try to cover all of those missed reviews, so I’ll just promise to be better about them from here on out and pick up where I am now.
I initially picked up Morgan Rice’s Arena One because it was billed as a book for people who loved Hunger Games, which I did. (Although my love in the series diminished with each subsequent novel.) I figured this might be the next great YA trilogy and I was excited to start a new series. I’ll be brutally honest here- don’t bother. I’ve never read a book that seemed to be written solely with the thought of making millions in Hollywood. The whole thing seems ready to translate directly into a screenplay that will be attempt to be the next big summer blockbuster.
Arena One starts out in the not-so-distant future when the US has been destroyed by a second Civil War- this one brought on by the fractious nature of the American political system, where each side takes more and more extreme positions, until actual war breaks out, trapping the citizens in the middle of the politicians deadly hubris. After the government fails, large gangs take over the big cities and scour the countryside for any holdouts, hoping to make them slaves or pit them against each other, to the death, as a form of entertainment and a show of power. Hence, the existence of Arena One.
The premise of the book is by no means unique or horribly intriguing, but with a great writer at its helm, it could make a great story. Instead, Rice spends most of it writing car chase scenes and increasingly violent hand-to-hand combat battles. I think the initial chase scene is where I began to lose interest. I get the desire for action and the seemingly endless car chase may definitely draw in young male readers, but it felt like it went on for an eternity. How a car, no matter how plated and outfitted, would ever be able to submit to the abuse in the early chapters of this book is beyond me. And yet, it does and keeps on rolling! This whole section of the book felt like it was being written for the big screen, rather than meant for the realm of words on a page.
While another series with a strong female lead character is always a positive thing (especially when it is one that draws in both male and female readers), but I hate that yet again, that lead character has to get caught up in a romantic relationship, or worse yet, a love triangle. Brooke is a caring young woman who has spent the last handful of years protecting her little sister on her own, but the instant a boy walks into her life, she suddenly gets all oozy/woozy about him. (To be fair, she is still the physically and mentally stronger character, so she doesn’t totally wimp out, but it would have been awesome if this new compatriot had also been female.)
As the action (and I do mean action!) continues, there are more car chases, lots more blood and gore and a bit of suspense to lead into the second book in the trilogy. I can definitely see where middle school boys would love this book and if I were still teaching, I would definitely buy it (and it’s sequels) for my classroom, but on a personal level, I just hated how much it felt made-for-Hollywood. Knowing that popular YA books translate into massive bucks when they are released in theaters, it felt like Rice was pandering too much to the exes who might buy his stories. With that in mind, I give Arena One by Morgan Rice only: