• Rash
  • Rash


4.0 24
by Pete Hautman

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"Of course, without people like us Marstens, there wouldn't be anybody to do the manual labor that makes this country run. Without penal workers, who would work the production lines, or pick the melons and peaches, or maintain the streets and parks and public lavatories? Our economy depends on prison labor. Without it everybody would have to work --

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"Of course, without people like us Marstens, there wouldn't be anybody to do the manual labor that makes this country run. Without penal workers, who would work the production lines, or pick the melons and peaches, or maintain the streets and parks and public lavatories? Our economy depends on prison labor. Without it everybody would have to work -- whether they wanted to or not."

In the late twenty-first century Bo Marsten is unjustly accused of a causing a rash that plagues his entire high school. He loses it, and as a result, he's sentenced to work in the Canadian tundra, at a pizza factory that's surrounded by hungry polar bears. Bo finds prison life to be both boring and dangerous, but it's nothing compared to what happens when he starts playing on the factory's highly illegal football team. In the meantime, Bork, an artificial intelligence that Bo created for a science project, tracks Bo down in prison. Bork has spun out of control and seems to be operating on his own. He offers to get Bo's sentence shortened, but can Bo trust him? And now that Bo has been crushing skulls on the field, will he be able to go back to his old, highly regulated life?

Pete Hautman takes a satirical look at an antiseptic future in this darkly comic mystery/adventure.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hautman (Invisible) explores the modernday tension between safety and freedom in this intelligent and darkly comic satire set 70 years in the future. Despite the daily dose of sedative required for all teens in the United Safer States of America, Bo Marsten reacts badly when he sees his girlfriend with his track rival and nemesis. "The locks and harnesses and chains of self-control snapped, one after another, like Frankenstein's monster breaking loose from his bonds." In Bo's society, even minor infractions result in prison terms, because their labor "makes this country run." Sentenced to work at a pizza factory in the Canadian tundra (the USSA annexed Canada in 2055), Bo finds himself a candidate for the warden's favorite pastime-watching his inmates crush each other's skulls on the gridiron. Football is outlawed, so only outlaws can play (think The Longest Yard with bears). In the meantime, Bork, the A.I. that Bo had been creating in science class, achieves self-awareness and independently tracks Bo down in prison with a plan to spring him-but can Bo survive on the outside? Hautman's vision of a futuristic nation wracked by litigiousness and terrorism is sharply observed-and frightening. Bo's Gramps (born in 1990 when kids could still run without protective safety gear) incisively sums up the book's undercurrent: "I think the country went to hell the day we decided we'd rather be safe than free." This thought-provoking and highly entertaining dystopian fantasy is certain to spark discussion among teens. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In the late 21st century, no chances are taken in the United Safer States of America, but some people do not quite fit in. Like his father and brother before him, sixteen-year-old Bo Marsten lands in jail, thanks to an ungovernable temper and a psychosomatic rash he brings out in his classmates. Serving his sentence at a McDonald's pizza plant in Ontario, he discovers football and the joys of controlled violence. He also discovers you can run faster when a bear is chasing you, literally. When Bork, the artificial intelligence he created as a school project, takes on a life of his own as a lawyer and gets him released, he returns, stronger physically and emotionally and able to find a way to escape his over-protective society. Poking fun at both government safety standards and our society's concern with healthy living, Hautman has created a world in which all the routine, menial jobs are done by inmates, and twenty-four percent of the adults are serving time. At the same time, he makes a good point about anger management: rather than take on his huge and powerful roommate Rhino, Bo can control his temper. Loose plot threads and a rescue in the nick of time will not bother the teen reader, who will be carried along by the first person narrative and straightforward action, and will appreciate the humor and lively pace of this satisfying story. 2006, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Ages 12 to 18.
—Kathleen Isaacs
Imagine a future in which it is illegal to insult others or to run without proper protective gear. Bo is a recalcitrant sixteen-year-old who has trouble controlling his emotions. In fact, his whole family has been in and out of work camps, those corporate jails run by the conglomerate descendants of Wal-Mart, McDonalds, and General Motors. Offenders are sent to these factories to prepare food or farm until their sentences are served. Bo is sent to an arctic facility after he sarcastically suggests that he has poisoned another student who has developed a rash. Soon the whole school is full of hysterical students developing psychologically induced rashes. In prison things are different-no padding on walls or floors, no rules against assault and abuse. A miserable Bo thrives after being recruited to play on an illegal football team, a respite from making pizzas sixteen hours a day. Meanwhile a sim program that Bo created in school pops up on the prison's Internet terminal. "Bork" has morphed into an AI program that is secretly working within the system to get Bo released. This incurs the warden's wrath, and Bo is evicted from the prison into the bear-infested tundra. Will he survive his release? The book wraps up with lots of surprises. Told with a hint of humor, the novel is a fast-paced, fun read with a likeable but rash protagonist, someone with whom male readers could easily relate. The author is a National Book Award winner for Godless (Simon & Schuster, 2004/VOYA October 2004) and has written other teen novels, including the recent Invisible (2005/VOYA August 2005). VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School,defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Simon & Schuster, 256p., Ages 11 to 18.
—Kevin Beach
F. Todd Goodson
Bo Marsten lives in a future society where anything that has the remotest potential to harm humans has been outlawed. In order to run track for his high school, Bo has to wear multiple layers of protective gear and runs on a track that behaves like a giant pillow. Football and other contact sports have been banned for years. It is also a lot easier to become a criminal in this future society, as the slightest infraction sends individuals off to prison work farms necessary to support the government and the economic system. When Bo is sentenced to McDonalds Plant #387 for saying hurtful things to one of his classmates, he discovers a very different world, one in which the head of the prison and the head of a nearby prison (Coca-Cola C-82) field highly illegal football teams that play one another in a particularly brutal version of the sport. The characters are well-developed, and the future society provides insights into our contemporary culture. Hautman's novel should appeal to young adults who appreciate social satire and speculative fiction.
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2006: 16-year-old Bo suffers from a fatal lack of self-control in a late 21st-century American society that values safety above all else. A third of the men are jailed for infractions, and prisoners are sold to multinational corporations as forced labor. A runner with a temper, Bo is falsely accused by a rival runner of causing a rash that sweeps through his school, and he ends up at MacDonald's plant #387 in the Canadian tundra. There he is recruited to join the illegal and homicidally brutal football team, with the chance of a reduced sentence if they win--and the likelihood of being eaten by polar bears if they lose. Bo's best chance for freedom, however, lies in an Artificial Intelligence he created for a school project, a strange creature named Bork who seems to have taken on a life of his own. In this absorbing and suspenseful satire with echoes of 1984, Brave New World, 2001: A Space Odyssey and even The Longest Yard, the issues of government control and safety versus freedom are played out in a grimly humorous fashion. Feisty Bo is an admirable hero, and his trials and tribulations as well as the sports action and intriguing future society will keep readers turning the pages. A provocative novel (with some strong language) by the National Book Award-winning author of Godless. Age Range: Ages 12 to adult. REVIEWER: Paula Rohrlick (Vol. 42, No. 1)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-In 2076 in the United Safer States of America, verbal abuse, obesity, and dangerous activities are against the law. Helmets and health food are de rigueur, and sports are either outlawed or radically changed (runners' track times have slowed appreciably because of the bulky safety equipment required). The penalty for breaking any of the rules is a lengthy prison term, and 24 percent of the population is incarcerated and responsible for doing much of the country's manual labor-without pay. For Bo Marsten, 16, the punishment for allegedly spreading a rash through school is a prison sentence, which is suspended, but he then goes to jail for lack of self-control after he hits a classmate. Bo has the opportunity to reduce his sentence when he's chosen for the prison's (illegal) football team, but the sadistic coach is determined that his players win at any cost. This odd pairing of satire and sports thriller is carried along by the protagonist's confident narrative voice. The angry teen is struggling to explore his options in a world that has little concern for his emotional well-being. The satire is obvious but astute, and Bo's development is convincing. The many threads that run through this book may overwhelm some readers, but there is much for them to ponder and the overall effect is fresh.-Sarah Couri, New York Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a cutting and comic gem, Bo Marsten is in trouble with the law: He's insulted a classmate, neglected to take his anti-anger medication and gone running without kneepad liners (required to prevent chafing). In 2076, in the United Safer States of America, it's illegal to do anything dangerous. Provoked by the smarmy rival for a girl's affections, Bo commits crime after crime, culminating in an ineffectual and feeble fistfight. For such an outrageous offense, he's exiled to juvenile prison. In a McDonald's prison colony surrounded by man-eating polar bears, Bo assembles pizzas, while a surreal artificial intelligence named Bork tries to spring Bo from jail. But Bo's prison experience has a different twist. The sadistic warden has a fetish for the illegal game of football, and the most athletic criminals get perks in return for playing the violent sport. If Bo manages to survive the bone-crushing football games, the homicidal warden and the hungry polar bears, he might just learn something. Bitingly funny and unexpectedly heartwarming, Bo's coming-of-age is a winner. (Science fiction. 13-15)

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Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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By Pete Hautman

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Copyright © 2006 Pete Hautman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0689868014


Sharp objects do not belong in your ears or near your eyes. Protect your senses!

-- Sammy Q.

Gramps, who was born in 1990, once told me that when he ws my age the only way to wind up in prison in the USSA (back when it had only one S) was to steal something, kill somebody, or use illegal drugs.

"Illegal drugs? You mean like beer?" I asked, pointing at his mug of home brew.

He laughed. "No, Bo. Beer was legal back then. I'm talking about heroin, marijuana, and cocaine. Drugs like that."

"They sent people to jail for that?"

"They sure did," he said, sipping his beer. Gramps's home brewed beer was one of our family secrets.

"Why didn't they just regenerate their dopamine receptors?"

"They didn't have the technology back then, Bo. It was a different world."

"Yeah, but sending them to a work camp...that sounds kind of extreme."

"No more extreme than putting a person away for littering," Gramps said.

"Littering is only a class-four misdemeanor -- you don't get sent up for that."

"Mr. Stoltz did."

"That was for assault. Melody Haynes got hurt."

"But all he did, really, was litter. He dropped an apricot when he was unloading groceries from his suv."

"Yeah, then Melody slipped onit and got a concussion."

"She should have been wearing her helmet. My point is, Bo, all the man did was drop an apricot and they sent him away for a whole year. A year of hard labor on a prison farm. For dropping an apricot!"

"But if he hadn't dropped it, Melody wouldn't have gotten bonked," I said. Sometimes my grandfather could be kind of dense.

"Maybe so, Bo," he said, "but the fact remains, the poor man lost a whole year of his life for one lousy apricot."

Gramps could get real stubborn when he'd been drinking.

Back then there were five of us Marstens serving time: my father, my brother, two cousins, and an aunt.

My dad got put away for roadrage back in '73. Some droog pulled out in front of him, and Dad caught up with him at the next traffic light and jumped out of his car and pounded his fist on the hood of the guy's suv and made an obscene gesture. It would have been no big deal except that it was his third roadrage citation, so he was sentenced to five years under the three-strikes-you're-out law.

Last year my brother Sam went to an unauthorized graduation party and got in a fistfight. The kid he fought lost a tooth. Sam was seventeen at the time.

Like father, like son -- they sentenced Sam to two years. If he'd been an adult, he would've gotten five years, minimum.

I never found out why my aunt and cousins were locked up. Most people don't like to talk about their jailed family members. It's embarrassing. But having five close relatives in the prison system is not that unusual. According to USSA Today, 24 percent of all adults in this country are serving time. My family was only slightly more criminal than average.

Dad got sent to a prison aquafarm down in Louisiana. He wrote to us that by the time he is released, he will have shelled twenty million shrimp. That message included a thirty-second clip of him standing at his workstation, blue gloves up to his elbows, ripping into a bin of crustaceans. Sam was on a road gang in Nebraska, middle of nowhere, patching holes on the interstate.

Of course, without people like us Marstens, there wouldn't be anybody to do the manual labor that makes this country run. Without penal workers, who would work the production lines, or pick the melons and peaches, or maintain the streets and parks and public lavatories? Our economy depends on prison labor. Without it everybody would have to work -- whether they wanted to or not.

Anyway, here's my point: Given my family's history I should have known to keep an eye on my temper. Lose control for one tiny chunk of time and bam -- next thing you know you're ripping the legs off shrimp. But at the time...Well, if you look at history, you will see that I was not the first guy to do something really stupid over a girl. Look at how many Greeks died for Helen of Troy. How much self-control do you think they had?

Copyright 2006 by Pete Hautman


I was never very good at school things. Historical events didn't stick in my head. Science and math bored me. As for dealing with people, forget about it. I could never have been a counselor, or a doctor, or a politician. I didn't have the patience.

I was no better at the arts: Painting, sculpture, and music didn't do it for me. Not that anybody else was any good at those things. All the best art got made back in the last millennium, before we learned how to fix depression and schizophrenia and stuff. These days, with everybody more or less sane, the new art is about as interesting as oatmeal.

According to my sixteenth-year Career Indexing Evaluation, my top career choice was correctional worker. I guess that meant I'd make a good prison guard. Or maybe a good prisoner. Either way, with penal institutions being such big business I'd have no problem finding work if I wanted it.

The only thing I'd ever been really good at was running. I could run faster than anyone else on Washington Campus, with the possible exception of the intolerable Karlohs Mink. I could run a 50-yard dash in eight seconds, and 100 meters in under 14 seconds.

In fact, on the day I got into it with Karlohs Mink, I had been hoping to break the 100-meter school record of 13.33 seconds.

Karlohs was never my favorite person. Even before the first time he looked at Maddy Wilson, I hadn't liked him. For one thing, the way he spelled his first name was really irritating. And I hated his wrinkly minky smirk. And his stupid-looking asymmetrical hair: so pretentious; so 2060s. The only thing I liked about Karlohs was his last name. Mink. It was perfect that he had the name of a diminutive, beady-eyed, nasty-smelling member of the weasel family.

But I never set out to harm his smirking minky face. At least not at first. Not until he started his minky sniffing around Maddy Wilson.

I had called Maddy that morning and told her I was about to set a new school record for the 100 meter.

"Oh, Bo," she said, her laughing face filling my WindO, "you are so funny."

I don't know why Maddy did it for me. Something about her mouth and eyes lit me up every time I saw her. I wanted desperately to impress her.

"I'm serious, Mad. I'm gonna set a new school record."

"I think you and Karlohs are simply ridiculous."

"Karlohs? What's he got to do with it?"

"You're both just so competitive."

"Maybe so. But I got the bear after me."

"Oh, Bo, you and your silly bear!"

* * *

Back when Gramps was in high school, kids ran faster. Gramps claimed to have run 100 meters in 11 seconds, and the mile in 4:37. That was before the Child Safety Act of 2033. Now every high school runner has to wear a full set of protective gear -- AtherSafe shoes with lateral ankle support and four layers of memory gel in the thick soles, knee pads, elbow pads, neck brace, tooth guard, wrist monitor, and an FDHHSS-certified sports helmet. We raced on an Adzorbium track with its five centimeters of compacted gel-foam topped by a thick sheet of artificial latex. It's like running on a sponge.

Before the Child Safety Act dozens of high school athletes died in accidents every year. They died from things like heatstroke, skull fractures, heart attacks, and broken necks. Today, high school athletes are as safe on the athletic field as they are sitting in the classroom.

Gramps thought it was ridiculous.

"They might just as well put you in a rubber room and see who can stomp their feet up and down the fastest," he once said. "We used to run on hard-packed cinders -- no helmets, no gel-foam, none a that."

I tried to argue: "But, Gramps, it's just as healthy. I mean, with the equipment and the Adzorbium, we probably get twice the workout, only nobody gets bonked."

"Nobody goes very fast, either. I ever show you my old track shoes?"

"Yes, Gramps. I've seen them." Gramps kept his old running shoes in a box in the garage. Every now and then he'd bring them out and wave them around and go on and on about the days of the "real" athletes. You couldn't talk to him when he got like that.

"Look, Gramps, as long as we all have the same rules, the top athlete still gets the trophy."

"That why you run, Bo? For trophies? Hell, when I was a boy, reason we ran was 'cause we were getting chased. We played football back then. Real football. Tackle football."

Football has been illegal since before I was born. I've seen recordings of the old games, and I can see why it has been banned. The only place they play it now is in some South American countries like Columbistan and Paraguay.

"It was run like the devil or get eaten up." Gramps had drunk a few beers that day.

"Yeah, right. Who'd want to eat you?"

"You'd be surprised, boy. It was the twentieth century back then. Bears everywhere."

"You were chased by bears?"

"Damn straight, boy."

"You don't expect me to believe that, do you?"

"Hell, boy, some of the things you kids believe these days...how do I know what you'll believe? But I'll tell you this: You want to run a little faster? Just imagine you got a grizzly on your ass."

Copyright 2006 by Pete Hautman


Excerpted from Rash by Pete Hautman Copyright © 2006 by Pete Hautman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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