Rash by Pete Hautman.
I am a huge Hautman fan, having really enjoyed his book Invisible. Rash is a book set in a dystopian United States, now called the USSA. In this future, the United States and its citizens have become obsessed with self-protection, meaning that even to walk down the street kids have to wear a helmet, to run a race they have to be fully suited in protective gear and run on a shock absorbent track. The protagonist of the book, Bo, has a father and an older brother in the penal system. People are given jail time for anger and antisocial behavior. Bo has his father’s temper and is on the razor edge for being jailed. When Bo finally gives into his urge to fight with another boy who is hitting on his girlfriend, he is arrested and sent to northern Canada to a McDonald’s pizza factory. It is in jail that Bo discovers his real passion: the illegal game of football.
Rash is about a future that is more than possible. It is about corporations taking over our penal system, a society relying on prisoner work to support itself, an amazingly self-centered society where nothing matters more than self-survival and extending your life as long as possible, even when that destroys the very quality of life. It is a frightening world, but readers get to experience through the eyes of sarcastic Bo which is a real treat. I enjoyed the dystopian society because it really is well fleshed out to the extent that it begins to color how you view today’s society. I also enjoyed the character of Bo, a person who doesn’t fit into the world he has been born in. There is humor throughout the book, lifting it from what could have been a dismal look at the future into something that is fresh, new and inventive.
Share this book with teens who enjoy science fiction, but it should also be enjoyed by teens who enjoy sports books and anyone quirky enough to have felt they don’t fit into society. This is a great read and is definitely another winner by Hautman.