First Sentence: I'm skipping the prologue because it's the history of the Gladiator sport and, while informative and helps set up the entire novel, isn't thrilling. In the first chapter: "The clerk asks for my autograph." Also, not thrilling. But it sets up the fact that Lyn is somewhat famous.
During the week, Lyn lives in a big house in Cambridge, and hangs out with friends in Harvard Square. But over the weekends she cheers her father on when he gears up for neo-gladiator competition—a high-profile televised blood sport that rivals the NFL. Lyn’s father is the top player in the league, and the paparazzi that have always swarmed him have started to dog Lyn’s every move. All this fame comes with an even higher price. Lyn’s family lives with the constant presence of violence, uncertainty, and a strict cultural code set by the Gladiator Sports Association. When a skilled young fighter slays Lyn’s father, the GSA imposes an unthinkable sentence—Lyn must marry her father’s murderer. Though her mother has made a career out of marrying into Glad culture, Lyn is prepared to do whatever it takes to claim her independence. Even if it means going into the arena herself…. Lise Haines’s debut novel, a dark satire for our time, is a mesmerizing look at a modern world addicted to violence, fame, and greed—a world eerily close to our own.
Beefs: That "no cigar" thing comes mostly from the execution of the novel. The plot and characterizations are fantastic, flawless almost. But the writing style was very... forgettable. Which, combined with the almost flawless plot and characterizations, is a complete contradiction. Mostly what bugged me about the writing was that dialogue was presented with dashes when someone spoke, rather than the usual quotation marks. It bugged my mind so much I almost stopped reading. Probably the other thing that bugged me was the fact that this novel is defined as "dark satire." I'm good with the dark part (I like the plot, remember?) but the satire part I have half an issue with. Call it the ending, follow through, lack of action, I'm not sure but something was off.
Ending: Not satisfying. Great build up, but once you get to the end scene, it sort of ends. I think this has something to do with the "satire" part of the genre, like there was a point to be made. But I think the point would have been better made if she'd driven the ending with more force (more Hunger Games, or even Gladiator).
Recommendation: I'd love the opinion of someone who likes satire. Perhaps this is one of those Fight Club things (which she references). I have complete respect for Chuck Palahnuik, but the guy is a little to much for my brain to handle (perhaps this is contradictory as well, considering my more morbid tastes in books and movies).
Would I represent it? I'd definitely go for something with a plot and world like this. The characters are great as well. But I would have rejected this if I found it in my slush pile, or tried to convince the author to change it.