I loved this book and read it in a few days. I enthusiastically recommended it to my husband, who also enjoys YA dystopia, and was bewildered when he was not that into it. I thought it was scary and sad and funny and nuanced and infuriating. He thinks, so far, that it’s dumb and poorly written.
This was turning into the book equivalent of The Dress so I turned to Goodreads to decide who was right because obviously that is a quantifiable right/wrong thing and obviously I was right.
It seems like reviewers fell into two camps: those who thought it was amazing, and those who lack the taste and insight to understand this book’s format. Allow me to elaborate.
Feed is set in a dystopian (implied futuristic) world when everyone has had a “feed” implanted in their brains. It’s basically a mind-controlled internet/Facebook newsfeed run by corporations that tailors ads to you based on all kinds of things. Feeling blue? Why not wear blue, at Acme Clothing’s 20% off sale! It kind of reminds me of The Hunger Games’ Capitol because everyone is so mind-bogglingly frivolous and shallow and driven by mindless capitalism, and it also reminded me of Wall-E.
Titus is a dumb bro with a bunch of dumb bro friends and then he meets Violet on a trip to the moon. Violet got her feed installed late and she’s smart and kind of a goody two shoes and flawed enough to be believable. It’s probably not a spoiler to say that romance ensues, and Violet already recognizes some of the horror around her for what it is. It takes an unexpectedly Fault in Our Stars-ish turn when Violet’s feed is damaged and it turns out to have terrifying physical ramifications.
Here’s the thing. This is what some
foolish people reviewers hated about it and I loved about it. You know how most dystopian YAs will spend a couple chapters pretty pointedly laying out what’s what in the world/society, and by the third chapter they’re kind of halfway questioning authority, then something happens (meet a rebellious opposite sex teenager, family is kidnapped, arranged marriage comes to pass, etc.) and then they switch allegiances instantly and are ready to fight the establishment? I get really sick of that. That is not really what happens here. Yeah, Titus grows some and changes some, but he begins and ends a dumb bro because he has been socialized from birth to be a dumb bro. The book never explicitly lays out most of what kind of society he’s living in. We just see it, day by day, as he lives it and to him it is completely unremarkable. If he were to break the fourth wall, he would say that this is a story about his relationship with Violet and so on. He would not say it was a book about the crazy awful horrifying society he lives in because that is the point. In a culture that’s worked to keep its citizens stupid and complacent and distracted, you’re not going to find that many people who are actually secretly super smart and open to rebellion. And he’s not. Titus is an immature, shallow, stupid young man who is unable to step up when he needs to because that’s the kind of people populating this world. Seeing it through his eyes is so much more disturbing than seeing it through a smart, subversive anomaly’s eyes, because if there were that many smart, subversive anomalies, would it really be so dystopian at all?
So yes, there’s a lot of snarking about “only read this if you like reading between the lines” and “I couldn’t stomach the airhead teenagers and their stupid slang” in the reviews. And okay, those things are true. But those things are the damn point of the book, and those reviewers are lamebrains. I’m talking to you, Eric.