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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)