Is The Fight For Originality One That "Arena" Is Prepared To Win?

25894059 Title:  Arena
Author:  Holly Jennings
Format:  eARC
Length:  335 pages
Expected Date of Publication:  April 5, 2016
Publisher:  Ace
Rating:  2 Stars

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...  -Goodreads

My Thoughts
Arena is sadly a case of one step forward, and far too many steps back to count. Things to love about this book.

The Asian-American, kick ass, female lead.

The lesbian, equally kick ass supporting duo, that get their fair share of the action both singularly, and as a couple.

The corporate manipulation that leaves one very wary of unseen puppet masters and their insidious machinations.

The things that make this book eligible for the Wonder Of Flight award. An honor bestowed on those select few reads which are subject to be thrown across the room for crimes such as vapidity of characters or plot, storyline recycling gone wrong, or simply an inability of the reader to stomach any or all of what may or may not be occurring in said book at any given time.

All crimes of which this book is sadly guilty.

The "virtual RPG" is a la Ready Player One meets The Hunger Games plus a dash of Red Rising for spice.

What do we do to dress things up a bit?

Take things from YA to Adult in three descriptors or less?

How about sex, drugs, and manipulation?

Because that is what we get in post game play. While this nod to the "live hard play harder" lifestyle does prove quite eyebrow raising at first glance. There is only so much bed hopping, drug taking, and clubbing that one can stand before the bloom is well off of that rose.

This really had the potential to be a good story. If it had been allowed to be its own unique tale. Instead of an amalgamation of ones we've heard before. All dressed up in mommy and daddy's clothes for a big night at the grownup's table. 

*I received this book as part of the First To Read Program sponsored by Penguin-Random House.  The opinions expressed in my review are my own, and are in no way influenced by the publisher.

About Holly
Holly Jennings Holly Jennings is a self-proclaimed nerd and lover of all things geeky and weird. As the firstborn to a sports enthusiast, it was soon discovered that the only games she'd ever learn to master involved consoles and controllers. Her childhood was spent crushing virtual foes, racing on simulated tracks, and rescuing digital princesses. As a young adult, she fell in love with English class, speculative novels, and comic books, which inspired her to create stories of her own. Eventually, her passions converged and she started writing about the future of video games.
Find Her:  Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Web 

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