Author: M.T. Anderson
Genre: YA fiction, science fiction, Book Worms book club selection
The events in Feed take place in the future (year unnamed), in a world where social media feeds are streamed through a chip inserted in the brain (just imagine Facebook and Twitter constantly updating in your head). In this world school and the clouds are trademarked because they are owned by corporations. Education consists of learning how to use the feed to be the best consumer. There are flying cars (called upcars) and neighborhoods consist of tunnels instead of asphalt roads. The pollution is so pervasive that neighborhoods are encased in giant bubbles and the local weather is controlled by the neighborhood’s homeowner’s association. The world’s oceans are so polluted that beachgoers have to wear special suits to protect themselves.
Not only does the feed constantly bombard the user with ads, videos, and chat, but the feed also controls all the physiological functions of the body (the reader doesn’t find this out until later in the book). Because of this constant bombardment of information, peoples’ vocabularies and verbal sentence structure are shorter and clipped-similar to a tweet. Teens refer to each other as “unit” instead of “dude” or “hey, man” indicating that everyone views themselves and others as a type of machine. When the feeds of Titus and his friends are turned off after a hacking, at first they don’t know how to entertain themselves and are easily bored. In this world no one reads physical books and writing has become an obsolete skill. “Before that, they had to use their hands and eyes. Computers were all outside the body. They carried them around outside of them, in their hands… that’s one of the great things about the feed- that you can be supersmart without ever working” (47).
While Titus and his friends recover from their hacking, Titus starts a relationship with Violet. Violet is different from Titus and his friends- she didn’t receive the feed until she was six or seven, she learned to write (gasp!), and her vocabulary and critical thinking skills are superior to that of Titus and his friends (she is accused of showing off and using “weird words” multiple times). Violet is also aware of the world outside of the feed and is constantly mentioning world events in brief snippets to Titus and his friends. Like most teenagers, they are unaware of the world and the bigger picture. The readers gets quick snippets that all is not well in the world; besides the pollution, there are rumors of war, riots, and an incompetent president trying to keep it all hush hush.
It’s also quite creepy how prescient the author was in regard to computers, cell phones, technology, and corporations’ seamless intertwining in our lives. The book was written in 2002; Facebook didn’t launch until 2004, Twitter in 2006, the iPhone was released in 2007, and Amazon and Google hadn’t tried to take over the world yet. This was the first selection of the book club where I work. After the hacking incident, we thought the direction of the book was going to lean towards investigating the hacking and the people and politics behind it, but it’s just a quick blip in these kids’ lives (like everything else on the feed). We came to the consensus that the author focused more on the teens than the hacking because that is how most teens (and adults, unfortunately) view the world- they only pay attention to events and politics if it affects them directly. This book prompted serious discussion about the role and amount of technology in our lives along with the dangers of being a passive consumer.