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FEED by M.T. Anderson: Book 19 of 2011 [Wow! It’s Wednesday]

Well, let’s see here, it’s the 23rd week of the year, and this is only my 19th book report. What’s sad is that I’ve been reading like a big dog all year and have a lot of books in my already-read pile, I’ve just been not-so-great at reporting back on the books I’ve read. Luckily, we have BOOK WEEK coming up from June 20-24th, so do come back then for a completely bookalicious week, including 5 book reports in a row from yours truly.

But enough about that, here are my thoughts on FEED by M.T. Anderson.

Why Did I Decide to Read It: This was yet another suggestion from my writing exchange partner, Gudrun Cram-Drach. She knows I love books with well-rendered future worlds, and she thought this would be right up my alley.

What’s It About: We follow our main character, a popular teen named Titus, living in a future in which “television and computers are connected directly into people’s brains when they are babies” — this biogenic device is simply called “the feed.” He’s pretty happy being a thoughtless consumer, until he falls for a homeschooled girl named Violet, who actually thinks for herself.

What Makes it Different: Dystopian YA is so in right now. And the back cover description insist that this novel is a satire. However, ¬†FEED feels neither dystopian or satiric, rather like it could really happen, and that this is where our future is headed. Also, I didn’t realize how weird it was that most nearish-future novels didn’t include parents who say “Dude” and “like” until I got the mild shock of meeting our main character’s parents — who talk exactly like me. Dude!

What I Loved: This is an extremely readable novel. Just the imagined world alone is endlessly fascinating. I also love that Anderson’s characters speak in a futuristic teen patois, unlike the well-spoken dystopian teens I’ve become used to. I really can’t say enough about the dialogue in this book. It seriously made me feel like other authors were either too optimistic about the future of language in this country or just weren’t trying hard enough. Also, I almost never recommend the audiobook over the book-book, but the production values on this audiobook are out-of-control AMAZE-BALLS! David Aaron Baker’s (BOARDWALK EMPIRE) delivery is spot on, and you’re given chapter-ending interstitials that actually make you feel like you’re inside the feed. So frickin’ cool!

I also loved the deep thoughts that the book kindled within me: Is technology worth it? Would you trade living in urban cities for not having to deal with adult acne? Would you give up the convenience of plastic if it meant keeping our oceans clean for my grandchildren? Would you rather pay for private school for your kid, or pay an equal amount in taxes so that all kids could receive a quality education? the questions go on and on, and I’m still thinking about the answers.

What I Didn’t Like: It’s always difficult when grown men judge teenagers and find them completely wanting. This entire book feels like a judgement of today’s teens, who I think are actually pretty spectacular and will turn out better than the author’s generation. I kept wondering if the author really thought the majority of teenagers was this awful.

Also, I had the feeling we were supposed to be horrified by the feed, but other than the physiological tolls on its carriers, it sounded really neat to me. I like technology. No, I love technology. I especially like technology that allows me to consume in a more efficient way. It felt like the author was saying, “No, that attitude is wrong” by presenting everyone who enjoyed the feed as idiots. But then again, maybe Anderson has a point. Maybe I am an idiot for loving my gadgets and conveniences more than I love say, the planet Earth or peace in the Middle East.

Writing Lessons Learned

Write about the stuff that gives you nightmares. If you’re afraid that our society is going to hell in a handbasket, don’t rant about it, write about the hell-in-a-handbasket world you think we’ll soon be living in. But…

Don’t be didactic. I know I said earlier that I felt judged by Anderson, but one of the frustrating and great things about this book is that you never quite know where the author stands on these issues. On one hand, the feed is so frickin’ cool. For example, if you look at someone’s skirt and think it’s cute, the feed will automatically tell you how much it costs and if you want, ship it to you within hours. On the other hand, the oceans are toxic, so … you end up doing with that what you will.

The more serious the subject, the funnier you can be. Somehow I forgot to mention earlier that this book is pretty funny — in a somewhat horrific way. There’s even a clone reveal that you just do NOT see coming. It reminded me that adding levity makes any novel that tackles serious issues a pleasure (as opposed to a grind) to read.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: People interested in the future and anyone who just can’t wait for the iCloud to get up and running.

Click on the book cover to buy FEED at Amazon!