Book Review: Feed, by M.T. Anderson

Feed, M.T. Anderson, National Book Award finalist, Candlewick Press, 200 pages

I still remember the day I first read Feed. It was over ten years ago and I was sitting on the couch, eating soup and watching Oprah. I worked as a journalist at the time and after picking up my son from middle school, I’d eat a late lunch and watch Oprah before slumping back to the office.

So there I was, eating soup and eyeing Oprah when, wham!, something hit me in the head.

“You have to read this book,” my son shouted from the hallway.

I looked down at the brightly colored cover and thought how ironic it was that the book that hit me in the head while I was eating was titled Feed.

Feed

So I started reading. Needless to say, I didn’t return to the office that day, hee, hee. I read the rest of the evening, stopping only to walk the dog and throw together a quick dinner.

That was back in 2006. This weekend, I picked up Feed and reread it. Once again, I was transformed into the future, in a world of teenagers who call each other “unit” and rarely talk to one another because they all had the feed inserted in their brains when they were young and now their computers are in their heads and they can surf the Internet and chat and look up whatever they need to know, whenever they need to know it.

M.T. Anderson‘s Feed, which gives a chilling account of where our consumer-minded culture could take us in the future, was a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People.

It’s a well-written and fast read, filled with the jargon and mind-set of teens who grow up in a world where everything they want or need is readily available and entertainment is always handy and they never need to sit alone with themselves and think or worry or wonder.

(It kind of sounds like today’s world of Smartphones, doesn’t it? Amazingly enough, it was published back in 2002, before Smarphones were as smart as they are today, and before the high-end cameras and the selfies and everyone posting every-single-thing-they-do to social media sites and no one paying attention as they walk across the street or wait for a bus because their heads are bent over their very small and very engrossing screens.)

I don’t know when they first had feeds,”  Titus says. “Like maybe, fifty or a hundred years ago. Before that, they had to use their hands and their eyes. Computers were all outside the body. They carried them around outside of them, in their hands, like if you carried your lungs in a briefcase and opened it to breathe.”

The book is narrated by Titus, who parties on the moon with his buddies and attends a school run by corporations and lives in a world where the clouds and weather are controlled and you can holiday on other planets and even beneath the sea. He falls in love with Violet, a girl who has an older model of the feed and knows how to write and read books, an oddity. (Spoiler alert!) Her feed eventually malfunctions due to a virus. Because the feed is so intricately tied to the brain, she slowly loses her ability to move and talk and function.

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M.T. Anderson–isn’t he cute in his Harry Potter type glasses? P.S. Dude, or I mean Unit, you have one glorious and odd mind.

What makes the book so powerful, though, is Titus’ single-minded focus on himself and his own needs, so much like a teenager and yet intensified because, face it, if you never think for yourself, you never really grow up. Yet we also can feel that Titus is different, that he wants to be different, that he wants to think for himself yet has no idea, or real incentive, to do so.

“I could feel all of my family asleep in their own way around me, in the empty house, in our bubble, where we could turn on and off the sun and the stars, and the feed spoke to me real quiet about new trends, about pants that should be shorter or longer, and bands I should know, and games with new levels and stalactites and fields of diamonds, and friends of many colors were all drinking Coke, and beer was washing through mountain passes.” 

I highly, highly, highly recommend Feed. (I’m also surprised that no one optioned this as a movie because it would make a great film, a kind of The Fault in Our Stars of the future, with a lot of surprises and a sprinkling of tears.)

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Looking for a good book to read? Check out Luanne Castle’s review of Adrienne Morris’ The House on Tenafly Road. It will make you want to dive inside the pages and never look up. P.S. The House on Tenafly Road also chosen as Editors’ Choice Book and Notable Indie of the Year by The Historical Novel Society.

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