Book Review: Feed by M.T. Anderson

In this media-obsessed era, it’s not difficult to imagine a near-future dystopia where everyone is connected to the feed. The feed is a constant stream of information, telling you what to buy, listen to, invest in, believe in. Titus is an American teenager trying to have a good time. When he and his friends are attacked while on vacation on the Moon (which is totally not brag like they thought it would be), things change. Their strange new friend Violet has lingering side-effects from the attack. Titus and Violet become close in the months following the attack, building a relationship that actually seems like it will hold pretty strongly in a world of fickle and inconstant trends. That is, until Violet starts to… malfunction.

The world building in this story is simultaneously a constant flow of information and a subtle nudge of information, depending on what the feed wants you to pay attention to. Deciphering between the “important” news and the advertisement news is quite easy for a reader, but the “important” world news is often skimmed or glossed over – even when the news is horrendous. This is mostly because the story is all from Titus’s perspective, and Titus is almost completely tapped into the sales-heavy feed stream. During a fight with Violet, he takes the time to order a pair of pants. Because the feed told him they were “trend” and they were “brag” and better yet they were on sale. World news seeps in, but if you’re tapped into the feed you have to want to see it to recognize it for what it is among the chaotic overshare of advertisements and rapidly replaced hit songs.

The characters are not terribly likable, but they really aren’t meant to be. Violet is odd and quirky; she doesn’t go to School™ because her father had decided to homeschool her. She got a feed later than most children, and she wasn’t as extensively “integrated” on the feed as Titus and his friends were. They cared about trends and fashion and the show Wow! Thing!. Violet was curious about bombs and war and deception. She wanted to resist the feed. I understand perhaps why Anderson gave us Titus’s perspective instead of Violet’s, but I so would have rather been in her head than his. Then again, she is most like “us” in 2017 – whatever being “like us” means – than Titus. Having Titus as our narrator gave more “typical” insight into that world, a truer sense of immersion into the feed, and a better understanding of the depth to which most people are downing in media. He is vapid, narcissistic, and has no unique defining characteristics before he meets Violet. He is what the feed wants him to be.

This young adult book was a fun read, a critical look of what we may one day become, but he does so without beating you over the head with the decline of humanity via smartphone. Anderson doesn’t want to tell the story about overindulgence and decay, he wants to tell you about the people who resist. Through the eyes of Titus. It’s an interesting perspective and I quite enjoyed it, despite being sad or annoyed with some of the characters.

I was recommended this book by a dear friend, and she must know me quite well because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads, but only because I felt a little disappointed by the level of “resistance” as referenced in the popular tag line “resist the feed” — perhaps only because I’m used to extreme resistance from dystopian novels (Hunger Games, Divergent, etc). Despite that, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick and easy read that will entertain you and leave you with more questions than you will ever get the answers to.

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