Pete Hautman, Author . S&S $15.95 (249p) ISBN 978-0-689-86801-6

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)

Reviewed on: 05/08/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
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