Would You Rather Be Safe Or Free?

Pete Hautman creates a world in the distant future where everyone is obsessed with staying healthy and safe.  People shouldn’t run fast.  They must wear walking helmets and only eat healthy food.  Bo comes from a family of bad tempers.  They are prone to punching people which is not “safe” for society.  This is why his father and brother are already in the penal system.  The prisoners are essentially slaves, replacing factory workers.  After being accused of starting a rash at his school and beating up a kid, Bo is sentenced to a pizza factory in the Canadian tundra where polar bears roam just outside the fence.  Bo gets the chance to try and out run them a couple of times.  Bo becomes one of the “goldshirts”, an elite group of prisoners that play football.  Before his sentence, Bo creates an Artificial Intelligence named Bork.  After Bo’s incarceration, Bork evolves into a sentient being “web ghost” with a brilliant mind of his own and his mission is to safe Bo.

 Fans of dystopian thrillers will really enjoy this book.  Pete makes you think about safety vs. freedom and what people are willing to give up to stay safe and what safety people are willing to give up to feel free?  I love Pete’s sense of humor when he used Phillip Morris and McDonalds as the leaders of health and safety.  The Frazzies sound disgusting.

 Teen Book Discussion Ideas:

 Which is more important to them, to be safe or free?

 Why do they think this society became so extreme?

 Talk about football.  How playing the game changed Bo.

 Talk about the goldshirts vs. the paper pants and how that relates to high school hierarchy.

 Talk about the evolution of Bork.  If they could create and AI, what would it be like.  What would it do for them?

 Talk about the “rash” and how the teacher’s rash started after Bo thought he saw it.  Talk about how the goggles and masks made everyone feel safer even though they were not.

 Do the teens in this discussion group feel safe?  Why or why not?

 If they were stuck eating one kind of food for three years what would they want it to be?

 Why would Bo’s father want to go back to the penal system?

Gleeks Will Love This Prequel!

For fans of Glee, this prequel is a lot of fun.  It is a bit of a bummer without the music, but I still really enjoyed it.  There was enough drama and dialogue to keep my interest.   Mr. Schu is not in the picture yet as Kurt, Mercedes, Artie and Tina enlist Rachel’s help to improve the Glee Club.  They have a recital planned and are scared to death they will make fools of themselves.  Rachel uses the morning announcements to give herself a higher profile, singing and bravely challenging the Cheerrios and encoring their wrath.  The Cheerios act of revenge almost destroys Glee.  We get to see an even nastier side of Quinn and Santana.  We get the back story of Quinn and Puck and Rachel’s crush on Finn starts to flare.  It is fun to see the friendships begin to blossom between Artie, Mercedes, Kurt, Tina and Rachel.

Here is my one big beef:  The author tries to make the setting seem like authentic Lima, Ohio (my birthplace.)  The reference to Puck beating up a kid wearing a Michigan t-shirt made sense.  But then they refered to Wegmans grocery store, which does not exist in Lima, let alone anywhere in Ohio.  This is always my problem with books, TV shows, movies that are set in Ohio, but the writer has no idea of what is in Ohio.  Does anyone remember Family Ties when they refered German Village to German Town?  Ugh!

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

How does the book differ from the TV show?

The Glee Club is the bottom rung on the social ladder.  Talk about the social ladder at your school. 

Talk about Quinn’s feelings for Puck vs. her feelings for Finn.  What makes “bad boys” appealing?  What makes “innocent girls” appealing to “bad boys?”

In this book, Mr. Schu seems a little bored with teaching.  Compare him with the Mr. Schu you know from the show.

Talk about the prank the Cheerios pulled on the Glee kids with the fog machine.  Could that really happen in your high school?

Talk about how mean the Cheerios are.  Are the girls at their school really that mean?  Are the Cheerios an accurate portrayal of the popular kids?

Talk about which Glee character they feel they are most like.  Who would they want to be like?