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?

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