Pete Hautman is the author of National Book Award-winning novel Godless, Sweetblood, Hole in the Sky, Stone Cold, The Flinkwater Factor, The Forgetting Machine, and Mr. Was, which was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America, as well as several adult novels. He lives in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Visit him at PeteHautman.com.
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.
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.