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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Gr. 9-12. It's very likely that the world has never seen a sports novel quite like this one, which evokes Louis Sachar's Holes (1998), M. T. Anderson's Feed (2004), and Chris Lynch's explorations of male aggression in Inexcusable (2005), all the while avoiding the merest whisper of predictability. In the United Safer States of America of the late twenty-first century, a national obsession with safety has criminalized even minor antisocial impulses. Bo's dad was put away in '73 for roadrage ; the teen's own anger issues likewise land him in one of the country's privatized penal colonies. There, he makes pizzas for McDonald's until the camp's sadistic overseer recruits him to play football. The illegal sport is brutally violent but exhilarating--and Bo, a gifted athlete, slowly begins to question his culture's basic assumptions, identifying with crotchety Gramps' view that the country went to hell the day we decided we'd rather be safe than free. At times, Hautman takes his signature eclecticism to an extreme, placing Bo in confrontations with polar bears, an intrusive artificial intelligence entity, and officials who suspect him of causing a rash outbreak. Like the author's similarly audacious Godless (2004) , though, this will satisfy teens with an appetite for big questions and gleeful ambiguities, while ratcheting up the mind-trip factor with a gimlet-eyed extrapolation of the future. --Jennifer Mattson Copyright 2006 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

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) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
"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."<br> <br> 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?<br> <br> Pete Hautman takes a satirical look at an antiseptic future in this darkly comic mystery/adventure.
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