I saw this book on a list of Hunger Games read alikes and thought it had a great premise. The book takes place in current day Boston with gladiators who fight to the death. They are not slaves, but they are under contracts with strict rules. If you, your wife or children break the rules you will be shunned from the gladiator community and lose all the wealth and status they’ve obtained. Lyn’s mother is now married to her seventh husband, Tommy G. According to Glad Culture rules, a “glad wife” cannot marry more than seven gladiators. She is now considered Uxor Totus. If she moves on to men outside the glad culture, she will be shunned and lose all her possessions. Lyn and her mother, Allison, are huge celebrities and high up in the Glad Culture. Tommy is about to fight Uber, a hot new gladiator who has killed all his opponents. According to Glad Culture, she must marry Uber because he picked up a piece of her jewelry she gave to Tommy for good luck before he fought Uber and was killed. If not, her family will lose everything. The book is a quick read. It is interesting how the character’s lives are not their own but they are terrified to break free from the culture that binds them because they will lose everything. Lyn reminds me of the character Marida from Pixar’s Brave. Lyn has to be brave enough to make her own fate and to protect her brother, who has special needs, at the same time. She uses the only power she has, her celebrity, to try and break free. That becomes complicated when she starts to develop feelings for Uber. Lise Haines does a great job of world building as she creates this Glad Culture where Lyn and her family live. Like The Hunger Games, Caesar’s, which we can assume is the casino on steroids, is like The Capitol. They have little regard for the lives of the men and their families. They are easily thrown away. One of the things I love most about Lyn is that she could make the easy choice and just marry Uber. But instead she makes hard choices. Like Katniss, she is a strong character that teens will admire. There is plenty of action and little bit of a love triangle that will also keep their interest.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Take a look at the prologue. Discuss how Glad Culture came to be.
Talk about how Lyn’s mother wants her to go to Glad Wife College.
Why do you think people stay in the Glad Culture?
Would you marry Uber or make the same choice as Lyn?
How did you feel about her mother’s casket?
Compare Lyn and Katniss. Compare Uber and Peeta or Gale.
Which is more appealing, Uber or Mark?
Talk about Lyn’s relationship with her seventh father, Tommy.
Later in the book we find out the creator of the early modern gladiators, Joseph Byres, is ashamed of what he created. Discuss.
Discuss gladiators in Roman times.
Do you think this culture has a place in the modern world?