Arena by Holly Jennings

ArenaArena by Holly Jennings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twenty year old Kali Ling has finally achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a professional gamer in the Virtual Gaming League’s RAGE tournaments. The league has the best players in the world competing weekly in virtual reality tournaments, the weapons are digital but the pain is real for the players. They eat, sleep and breathe their training and workouts but after hours they are expected to go out and make the club scene to smile for the sponsors and cameras but the drugs are easy to come by in this party life.

When Kali’s teammate overdoses the league covers it up and immediately replaces him. Kali struggles with dealing with Nathan’s death and then the added pressure of being made the first female captain in competitive gaming. Turning to drinking and drugs herself Kali battles her own demons. Will she be able to pull herself out of the dark side of gaming and lead her team or will she become yet another victim of the lifestyle?

Arena is one of those books that got off to a bit of a shaky start for me and I was wondering if I would like it at all. By the end though I really did enjoy the overall book and the positive message that is mixed into the story. Set in an athletic world where pressures from owners, sponsors and fans have the players turning to drugs to cope with the pressure is something that is a very real and touching subject.

Kali was a very likable character that had many different demons to battle and a lot to live up to. Watching her grow and struggle was certainly intriguing and you can’t help but to root for her to find her way and develop an inner strength. Drugs are a problem in all kinds of situations and here not only Kali but the whole team loses their friend to drugs and the story focuses on dealing with the loss and respecting their fallen teammate too.

What I didn’t quite love about this book was the gaming aspect or at least how it was explained. Taking place in the future players are no longer couch potatoes but athletes and beautiful. I found it a bit hard to grasp that players can be stabbed and beheaded or killed in any number of ways in a game and somehow feel the pain but no physical carry over to the real world but one of the players jumped in a game and further injured their ankle. Perhaps anyone who is a gamer would grasp the whole concept better but since the gaming is only the setting around the story it only brought my rating down a slight bit.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Categories: Uncategorized

4 replies

  1. Awesome review!

    I read this earlier this year and, like you, got off to a bit of a rocky start with it…but ended up REALLY enjoying it at the end.

    The way I read the whole “injury” thing, personally, was… Have you ever had a daydream that was SO vivid, you could swear it was really happening? Maybe you were thinking about something negative, and your heart started pounding and tears gathered in the corners of your eyes, even though you knew it wasn’t *real* ? I took the injury/feeling the pain thing to be sort of like that–because the players become so immersed in the game and the virtual world (in fact, it’s mentioned several times how much “realer” VR is to those who become addicted to the escape) that the injuries, despite not being *real*, carry over into the real world when they leave. I don’t know if that’s even close to the actual science of the world in the book, but…it helped me during the reading.

    Thanks so much for sharing! Happy book-ing to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I really did enjoy the overall story regardless of understanding how that would work. I think it was Lily and her sprained ankle that really made me wonder, she jumped out of a tree in the game, not an actual tree, but still injures herself in real life…. ok?? LOL But regardless the tournament was still a nice backdrop to dealing with real issues with the characters.

      Liked by 1 person

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