“In this strange, disturbing future world, teens travel to the moon for spring break, live in stacked-up neighborhoods with artificial blue sky, and are bombarded by a constant advertising and media blitz through their feeds. They live with a barrage of greed and superficiality, which only one teen, Violet, tries to fight. Intrigued by Violet’s uniqueness, Titus begins a relationship with her in spite of his peers’ objections. Yet even he cannot sustain the friendship as her feed malfunctions and she begins to shut down. “They” refuse to repair her feed because she is too perceptive and rebellious. This didactic, also very disturbing book plays on every negative teen stereotype. The young people are bored unthinking pawns of commercialism, speaking only in obnoxious slang, ignoring or disrespecting the few adults around. The future is vapid and without direction. Yet many teens will feel a haunting familiarity about this future universe. As a cautionary tale, the story works; it is less successful as YA literature” (Bradburn, 2002).
For me, the strongest and most poignant feeling that this book incited was rage. I am a huge fan of dystopian young adult fiction, but there are often times when I have to take a step back and realize the very true and horrific commentaries these novels are making on our own society. In Michael Cart’s book Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism, he discusses what makes dystopian fiction so alluring:
“One of the most interesting trends in recent speculative fiction is the rise of the dystopian novel, a literary form that imagines – sometimes satirically, sometimes somberly – a future world made even worse than the present one by the logical extension of current or threatened societal ills. In M. T. Anderson’s Feed, for example, the problem is consumerism gone mad…” (Cart, 2010, p. 103).
This, as Cart mentions, is especially true of Feed, as it plays with the idea of what might happen if humans had small computers inserted into their brains. These computers, known in the novels as “feeds,” are constantly projecting information into the brains of their hosts, sharing everything from advertisements to popular TV shows. In today’s world, it can be argued that we are entirely too reliant on technology and media consumption. I, personally, find it hard to stay off of my phone and computer for more than a few hours, and it’s almost impossible for me to unplug entirely. Feed imagines a world in which you literally cannot be disconnected from technology, as it is the only thing keeping everyone your brain alive. The story focuses on a teenager named Titus, who meets a mysterious girl named Violet while vacationing on the moon (yes; in this world, teenagers celebrate Spring Break on the moon). After a hacker swoops in and disrupts the “feeds” of Titus and his friends, Violet soon begins a downward spiral as her feed begins to shut down. Filled with unique language, humor, and painfully relatable commentary, Feed examines how overexposure to advertising and technology could quickly destroy society as we know it today.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I can’t imagine too many teenagers getting into it. While it’s written very conversationally and informally (it literally sounds as if Titus is just talking to a friend), M. T. Anderson kind of thrusts you into this world with absolutely no explanation. The teens use an abundance of weird futuristic slang (such as “mal,” short for “malfunction,” which seems to be a futuristic drug that causes people to hallucinate). I have a great deal of reading experience under my belt, and even I had trouble following what was going on.I would definitely not recommend this to a reluctant or weak reader, as the language in the book is really hard to wrap your head around, making the plot hard to follow. This would, however, be really good for fans of dystopian novels who feel like they’ve read everything, as it uses dystopian tropes without them feeling tired or overdone (at least in my opinion). The weirdness of Anderson’s style was enough to keep me curious and invested in the story, so I think fans of this genre will appreciate it.
The character of Titus is incredibly annoying, and I found myself wanting to smack him quite a few times throughout the novel. His lack of sympathy or compassion for Violet disgusted me, and I couldn’t believe that anyone would treat the death of a friend so nonchalantly. To be fair, though, it seemed as if Titus was just an unfortunate product of the times in which he was raised, as many of his friends (and, at times, even his parents) act the same way. In the end, though, Titus does seem to show remorse for the way he treated Violet, showing that there might yet be hope for society to break out of the trance that advertising and exposure to media have put it in.
One of the most powerful quotes from the book can be found near the end, when Titus is talking to Violet’s dad: “‘We Americans,’ he said, ‘are interested only 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'” (Anderson, 2002, p. 290). This, to me, is the ultimate commentary of this work; it is a cautionary tale, warning us about what might happen to our society if we allow ourselves to be consumed by media. Already, we can see evidence of an overload in the abundance of trash and reality TV shows. News outlets frequently skew the way we are exposed to news, subtly morphing our perceptions of the world until our ideas blend with what we see on TV. The thought that our world could end up like the world of M. T. Anderson’s Feed is a terrifying one, and Anderson’s message is one that should be heard by everyone who (like me) has an unhealthy attachment to technology and media.
Anderson, M. T. (2002). Feed. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Bradburn, F. (2002). Feed (Book). The Booklist, 99(4), 400.
Cart, M. (2010). Young adult literature: From romance to realism. Chicago: American Library Association.