Arena by Holly Jennings
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Virtual reality has advanced into full immersion gaming. Kali Ling battles to the death in the Arena for the enjoyment of her fans and to fill the pockets of her sponsors. The thrill of the battle sings in her veins as she defeats her foes. And in the professional gaming leagues, death isn't painless. Each time she dies, Kali experiences a virtual death as real as one in real life. But when you can wake up from death, over and over again, what does it matter if you die? Until the lines begin to blur between the virtual world and the real one.
Like most gamers in Arena, Kali indulges in alcohol and drugs, chasing the high she feels when in the game. Her life is a whirlwind of training, publicity, and fame, but she can leave all of it behind when she is immersed in the virtual world. The game itself becomes an addiction for her. When she loses a teammate to an overdose, her need to escape reality increases. She begins to spiral out of control. Watching Kali struggle to balance her life and reclaim her place in the real world made the pages fly by. Amidst the clamor of battle and gaming, Holly Jennings makes it clear that being a celebrity comes with a price.
The character development was spot on in this novel. I didn't notice Kali's slow decline into addiction at first. I realize now that this is how it starts. Small things that no one really notices until something major happens, then all the pieces begin to line up. The description of this book might talk about how Kali is the first woman to lead a team in the RAGE tournaments, but the true story is how she learns how to deal with the pressure and responsibility of that role.
Watching Kali struggle in both the real and virtual worlds kept my attention the entire time. There is never a dull moment and I couldn't wait to have a free moment to dive back into this book. I can't wait to start the next one!
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Interested in my thoughts on the rest of the Arena series?
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