Rash by Pete Hautman
Ever since I read Fahrenheit 451 in 8th grade, I've loved dystopian fiction, so Rash, a novel about a near future society where the USA is now the USSA (United Safer States of America) and the main labor force is a MacDonald's owned prison camp system, was right up my alley.*
The year is 2074, and today's teenagers are now in the grandparents. Bo's grandfather was born in 1990 in fact (for the math challenged out there -- that means he would be sixteen now, in 2006 -- like many of the readers). Just about anything that could possibly be considered unsafe is now illegal -- running without a helmet, verbally insulting people, even driving before age 26.
Due to these laws, 24% of the population is in prison, including Bo's father and older brother. Bo himself is sent to prison after he gets into a fight with a boy from school. Prisons have changed a little bit too. The inmates are basically a labor force, and the gulag to which Bo is sent is a factory where MacDonald's pizzas are made (and yes, MacDonald's makes pizzas -- there was an explanation for this, but I'll let Bo tell you about it). In order to escape pepperoni duty, Bo tries out to be a Golden Boy -- which, though he doesn't know it yet, means trying out for an illegal football team.
Rash is an absolutely hilarious look at where society could be headed. I laughed out loud when I read that the driving age was 26 -- as the state where I live is actually trying to gradually raise it from 16 to 18 (though if that gets drivers like my step-sister off the road -- it can't be that bad!).
Can you tell that I loved this book?
*Oh dear, I'm having flashbacks to my elementary school librarian -- she used to say that all the time!