For a book written with vernacular emphasizing the degradation of language in “youth culture,” and as a youth, I completely thought I would enjoy this more…. Instead, Feed by Matthew Tobin Anderson turned out to be an extremely tedious read, with what was supposed to be revolutionary style interrupting an already-weak story.
Wow, that was pretty harsh sounding.
There were some aspects of Feed that I really did like, so I don’t entirely hate the book. The concept of it was a good one to work with—a dystopian future with the Internet literally implanted into our brains, with corporations running the world and tracking our internet history to make it easier to sell to us.
The idea intended to paint a picture of uber-consumerism, and show the horrors of ignorance within the youth through characters like Titus and Violet. Anderson stated that the novel was commentary on how everyone was always trying to sell him things, and that there were other things to worry about aside from trends and advertised personalities. However, in his execution of it, Anderson completely lost me.
At the core of it, Feed is a story about a boy, Titus, going to the moon with his friends for spring break. There, he and his pals got hacked, and with the internet implanted into their brains, getting hacked meant a troublesome trip to the hospital. There, he met Violet, and eventually falls in love. The story then becomes a typical boy-meets-girl narrative, and the characters are all stark stereotypes of youth subcultures and scenes. The stereotypes were so bad that, as a millennial I was insulted. This perspective of youth felt so superficial and patronizing, I almost stopped reading the book forever.
Titus was channeling some serious Holden-Caulfield-level existentialism, however unlike Holden who was realistic (and at times kind of funny), Titus was such an upper-middle-class futuristic snob that it was difficult to empathize with him. Along with that, his speech, and his friends’ speech, using endless futuristic interjections of “like” was unbearable.
Violet, the girl whom Titus met on the moon, was no better, even though she and her father might have been the most three-dimensional characters of the whole novel. Violet seemed very typical of a manic pixie dream girl, abiding to the trope so much you wouldn’t even think Anderson intended to use her for anything else. She was just there to teach Titus a lesson, which SPOILER ALERT: he didn’t learn.
The pair then eventually gets separated by, of all things, cancer. Except, it’s a peculiar futuristic condition, and the story of the illness involved Titus being an asshole as well as a lot of dramatics. It felt like Anderson was trying to write about the complicated emotions surrounding cancer, but his characters had missed the point completely.
I have to say that the initial idea of Feed seemed very promising. Picking up the book, I was excited to read something about implanted chips connecting us to the internet, to the point where thoughts, like chats and text messages, could be transmitted telepathically. The way advertisements and big corporations track our consumer history and uses it to sell even more products to us is baffling in our society, and to dramatize it in a dystopian world would be very interesting. All the ideas were promising.
It was, I had to say, the execution that I think failed me. The story that Anderson crafted around his themes and commentary was rather weak, and the characters were flat or uninteresting. If only the story was a little stronger, or the characters more well-rounded and not a superficial glean of youth stereotypes, I might have enjoyed Feed a little bit more.
It also took me an extremely long time to get through this, mainly because it was such a burden to read, the reading experience of it decreased for me. At a very early point, I stopped having fun reading, and finished the book solely because I don’t like leaving things unfinished.
“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”