Review: Arena by Holly Jennings

arenaArena (Arena #1)
by Holly Jennings

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Synopsis:

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 fight to the digital death. Every kill is broadcast to millions. Every player leads 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 teammate’s overdoses. Now she s stuck trying to work with a hostile new teammate who s far more distracting than he should be.
Between internal tensions and external pressures, Kali is on the brink of breaking. To change her life, she’ll need to change the game. And the only way to revolutionize an industry as shadowy as the VGL is to fight from the inside.

My Review:

3 of 5 Stars

I went into this book expecting to love it which I think did me a bit of disservice. I’m really only a casual gamer but I love the idea of virtual reality so the premise seemed spot on for my interests. In that aspect it was awesome. The concept of this entire industry devoted to hardcore PVP gamers who experience the truest sense of virtual reality is incredible. Each player truly feels all of the pain of going to battle over and over again, including the sheer terror and agony of death. This part of the book got me thinking about all kinds of things including the impact this kind of lifestyle will eventually have on the players themselves. It wasn’t surprising to me that each of the gaming characters in the book struggled with a variety of issues – the most prevalent being drug abuse and addiction.

The vast scale of the drug use and club lifestyle that was portrayed through the book was what kept me from completely enjoying the story. I could understand how this celebrity treatment could lead to certain behavior but it never made sense that so much of it was actually encouraged. It’s explained in detail how the gamers need to be very athletic in order to truly compete and yet they are also expected to go out to clubs every night for publicity. Perhaps it’s my lack of experience in the darker side of the world of sports and athletics but somehow it didn’t ring true for me. Maybe I just want to believe that people are less selfish and more caring about one another. That said, about half way through the book it started to get better for me and I really began enjoying the continued story.

Overall I wouldn’t say I loved it due to the heavy drug use and the fact that I never completely connected with the main character, Kali. I did enjoy it though and will probably want to continue with the series to see how it expands and what obstacles each character might face in the future. I do recommend this to gamers but surprisingly also to anyone who is interested in sports or even just the darker side of the entertainment industry. I also think book clubs could get quite a bit of mileage out of this talking about various topics including celebrity culture and its impact on those immersed in it.

A big thanks to Berkley Books for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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One thought on “Review: Arena by Holly Jennings

  1. Pingback: The Weekly Wrap (11/28 – 12/4) | Glorious Panic

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