Book review: Feed, by M. T. Anderson

I started reading Feed by M. T. Anderson while on the plane from Minneapolis to Orlando this weekend. Page one opened my take off and ascent. The front cover depicting a large, orange, bald head and translucent script of the novel’s first paragraph were enough to set me for a sci fi dystopian romance or another zombie, vampire hybrid. Either way, Feed would be my MEA vacation book.

Cover of "Feed"

Cover of Feed

I’m certainly pleased to discover that I was right about the dystopian romance. Zombies are scary, and vampires are played out. It would be hard to empathize with a zombie character, knowing how zombies think (or do not think, which I believe was their literary origin), and it is similarly hard to relate to a vampire: I will grow old, I will not speak in pretentious haughty smooze, and I will not curse God.

Of course, the dystopia can be equally frightening, if not also over-played. I continue to be a fan of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, and I recognize that the analysis of the dystopian society in literature is as old as the vampire motif. Longevity and fresh story-telling make the socio-political subgenre pleasing for this reader.

But M. T. Anderson really has a new classic for young readers in his canon with Feed. It seems to have it all: societal dissidents, well-meaning but savagely destructive governmental programs, parenting and generational concerns, love and guilt, survivor’s remorse, personal liberties and wishes for society’s acceptance, even an end of innocence in all ways that can be measured. The list continues with realistic reasoning behind drug use, hospice care, friendship, foreign and domestic travel, flying cars, siblings, and radioactive consequences of poor environmental policies. Seriously, this novel felt full.

With a nod to Anthony Burgess’ modern classic, Anderson seems to respect the statement of A Clockwork Orange, thankfully without the violent crimes. Language as one unifying factor for a targeted age group seems like a literary motif, but it really has a real-life precedent. Just ask a 15 year old to explain the Civics curriculum or a 55 year old to explain the dangers of a poor credit score. Jargon and platitudes will fly in equal portions.

At one point in Feed, the character Titus explains how a childhood game made him feel alone; his date Violet reacts to her application of his nostalgia with a concurrent feeling of connection. I hesitate to explain the plot points further for fear of altering a new reader’s experience, but I should note the scene was brilliant. I actually put the book down and sipped on my tiny, in-flight Diet Coke while reflecting on the scene. In fact, I chewed on many moments of the novel in this way.

By the last quarter of the novel, I was already crying in my airline seat. Maybe because I saw the end of the inevitable (it is a Young Adult Literature novel after all… Read enough of them, and you will hone the predictions without trying), or maybe because I felt a strong pang, a suffocating memory of someone close to me and emotionally vacant due to illness. Regardless, Feed opened wounds and pulled out raw memories that I really thought had been dealt with. Perhaps, these thoughts were merely packed away.

The verdict? Ctolle says Feed by M. T. Anderson is a good use of your reading and thinking time.

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