Friday, December 12, 2014

Feed - M. T. Anderson

I have had Feed by M. T. Anderson On Reserve for nearly as long as I have had this blog. Yet, somehow, it never pulled me in quite enough to actually read it. Instead, it languished on the list until my Adolescent Literature course professor assigned it. So, here it is. I finally read it - and for class, too!

The book falls solidly into the popular dystopian genre. A group of teenagers head to the moon for a vacation (yeah, you read that correctly). Protagonist Titus and crew meet Violet, a girl extraordinarily different than any of them. For one thing, she has not had a feed her whole life.

The feed, as the title suggests, is a central part of this futuristic society. The feed, certainly derived in name from the real-life news feed of social media, has now become a brain implant. It is implanted at birth and becomes part of each person's biological system. It registers everything a person says, does, sees...everything. Then, it fills the subject's mind with related advertisements, news, messages, etc. 

The book itself interjects these messages into the plot, making it understandable to the reader how the feed is a constant interruption to thought and critical thinking, not that these characters are doing much critical thinking. They aren't. They are consumers to the extreme. Violet and her father are the exceptions. Her unique outlook on the world is what intrigues Titus from the start. 

At first, I was a bit surprised this book would be classified as a YA novel. But, as Anderson himself has Titus say, the story would be rated PG-13 for "language and mild sexual situations." Thinking of it that way, he pretty much nailed it, at least according to movie rating standards. The book merits that rating exactly. I suppose I still think of young adult as early teen, though really the genre spans about a decade of age in its intended audience. 

Going back to that consumerism me, that was the focus and message of the book. Throughout Titus and Violet's relationship (surprise! They get romantically involved), they are at odds over the impact of the feed in their lives. Because of their upbringings, they see the culture quite differently. 

Violet's father serves as the voice of reason, although he comes off as a bit of an oddball by being so extreme in his counter-cultural viewpoint. He's surrounded by those who cannot understand his antiquated worldview. To me, he represented the real truth of the novel. As he says,
“‘We Americans,’ he said, ‘are only interested in the consumption of our products. We have no interest in how they were produced, or what happens to them' - he pointed at his daughter - 'what happens to them once we discard them, once we throw them away.’”
He has it exactly right. This is a problem in our culture now, not to mention this distant dystopian future where everything you do merits a personalized advertisement sent to your brain.

Though I recognize the book's merit and important message, some combination of characters and writing style put me off. I didn't necessarily dislike it, but I was not a big fan, either. I found the feed interjections annoying (yes, I get that's the point) and wanted more information about the bigger story. There were snippets of political and worldwide news dropped in. I wanted more of that story and less about selfish teenagers who don't understand each other or anything about the world in which they live. Now, I guess, I understand why the book stayed on my to-read list for so long. It just didn't have that magic of story pulling me in. Not from the list, and not once I was reading it either.

Pages: 308
Date Completed: November 16, 2014

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