In the far northwest suburbs of Chicago, my teenage nephews attend school. Because I have a love for all things “book”, I dive in and explore their required summer reading each year. It’s a win-win…I get to keep up with the nephews and find some great new literature at the same time. Last year, we read Divergent, so I was convinced I would be rewarded with another treat this year, when I eagerly downloaded and began to read, The Feed, by M.T. Anderson.
I’m not sure I could’ve been more disappointed.
The concept of the book is to draw parallels between the setting and activities of the era (which is an undetermined amount of time in the future), to modern day meta-data mining and to point a finger at the many ways we are each controlled by major corporations. Control is possible because nearly everyone has an implanted chip that allows a constant stream of data to be visualized or listened to by the individual. Personalized data on what to buy and where to visit is delivered to anyone with a “feed” while awake, while asleep, while eating, while thinking (or not thinking as is more likely for the majority of characters).
All of this seems intriguing, and to be honest I’ve found myself contemplating the possibilities and implications of being connected to my own feed, yes…that mysterious monster Facebook. How did they know to recommend I friend someone from my early teen years, who I haven’t seen in 15 years?
The problem I have with the book is that it is a young adult novel. I am a highly introspective 37 year old woman who obsessively looks for meaning in all that I do and read and watch on TV. The complexities of created language (such as ‘going mal’- something reminiscent of getting stoned through an overload on the feed, ‘unit’- an insult or an exclamation of awesomeness, ‘meg brag’- a descriptor of how very high end an item is) and the seemingly dangling details of a civilization that has nearly destroyed itself, left me feeling that a teenager reading this book would quickly put it down.
It is no Divergent, and certainly no Hunger Games, where the dystopian nature of our future is explained just enough to make teens angry and just enough to draw them in farther. Those pieces gave enough background and uncovered enough detail to start discussions, to start arguments, to cause anyone of any age to easily make connections to the life they are living right now. The Feed does not do any of these things.
Today I saw my nephew, the one reading this book along with me. I asked him what he thought. His response? “It’s stupid…the description on the back made it look really interesting, but it’s not.” This comes from the mouth of a very normal teenage boy. He’s athletic, thoughtful, volunteers his time for others, and he totally missed any possible point. It’s just as I feared. There isn’t enough relatable material for teens to make sense of the analogy.
So to M.T. Anderson, I say this: you missed the mark. There were missed opportunities; you could’ve done so much more with this piece. You missed a chance to give me a sensational, award winning, heart pounding, anger inducing, dystopian novel. Instead, you gave me…meh.
Aimee Webber eats books for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When she’s not reading, she’s chasing after her twins or teaching the youth of America in the suburbs of Chicago.