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Parents' Guide to

The Challenger: Contender, Book 2

By Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Modern teens fight as gladiators in more violent sequel.

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If the idea of scrawny teens training to become gladiators and fighting dinosaurs excites you, then this sci-fi sequel is exactly what you've been looking for. There's a bit of Maze Runner here, plus The Hunger Games, plus the Edge of Extinction series by Laura Martin -- most of this mash-up trilogy has a precedent or three -- but The Challenger and the first book, The Chosen, weave in some fascinating history. If you didn't know that they used to flood the Roman Colosseum for sea battles, now you do. (There's a great NOVA special on this, incidentally.)

The action is at the forefront of the story, especially the teens' tough training regime. But there are a few standout characters, like their savvier-than-she-looks trainer Tsuru and Cade's Roman friend Quintus. Things look pretty grim for the finale, with more challenges ahead and a cruel alien overlord that seems impossible to outsmart. But if they can manage to not get eaten by dinosaurs at the Colosseum, maybe a happy ending and a return to Earth is possible.

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