Arena

Holly Jennings. Ace, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-101-98876-3
Jennings’s debut novel has a strong concept but doesn’t do it justice. In the 2050s, virtual gaming is now a competitive sport in which athletes can “die” and yet keep playing. But the costs are high, as Kali Ling learns when she and her teammates battle to win their game’s highest prize. It feels plausible that competitive video gaming and virtual reality might combine in sports that let viewers enjoy excessive violence with no apparent consequences, and there’s lots of potential for interesting stories with that background. However, the after-school-special nature of the narrative, which boils down to Kali helping her teammates win only after she kicks drugs and stops partying, lacks complexity and fails to engage. Once Kali straightens up and flies right, there’s no stopping her or her team: they win every match, and she outwits her awful manager and has an inevitable relationship with the male character who challenges her life decisions. For a book about fighting, there’s a remarkable lack of real conflict. Agent: Leon Husock, L. Perkins Literary Agency. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/15/2016
Release date: 04/05/2016
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-425-28287-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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