Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Books for people who think

I remember the day I picked up M.T. Anderson's FEED in a bookstore. I was intrigued by the cover and opened to the first page where I read:

We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

That's all it took for me to buy it. The voice was distinct and irreverent. The story was clearly dystopian. I figured it was going to be a good ride.

It turned out to be bloody brilliant. This book is thought-provoking, which is ironic since it's told by a clueless boy.

I can't remember the last time I had so much fun reading opening pages. I cackled and kicked my feet on the couch cushions at some of the lines. (Never fear, I was alone when carrying on like one possessed.)

FEED takes place in a future where people are hardwired to the Internet. They get instant-messages like thoughts and message each other more often than speaking out loud. Since corporations control everything, people's minds are bombarded with banner ads for products all day long.

For a teenage boy like Titus, life is all about the buzz and consumerism of the Feed, so he and his friends are thrown into shock when a hacker messes them up.

Suddenly, our heads felt real empty.

The way Titus explains the old days when people's computers weren't in their heads?

They carried them around outside of them, in their hands, like if you carried your lungs in a briefcase and opened it to breathe.

I'm not going to tell more about plot, because if you haven't read this, you really should. But I will say this story gets disturbingly dark. Titus is no hero. He's a product of his environment and confused when he finds out there are seriously bad things going on in the world. But he does make an effort in the end to do something right, even if it's too little, too late.

FEED was released eight years ago, but I'm writing about it now as part of a pledge I made to read a number of books that have been challenged or banned.

Every year, the American Library Association partners with other organizations for Banned Books Week, to bring attention to books that someone requested be removed from a public or school library.

Some parent objected to the language used in FEED, but I can't imagine a young reader (14 and up is the recommendation on the book cover) who hasn't heard the occasional swear word in our society. And this book is so much bigger than that. It makes us question consumerism, media saturation and personal responsibility. It makes us think. For ourselves.


JULIE OF THE WOLVES was first published in 1972, but it was among the most frequently challenged books of 2002. Why? Primarily because of a rape scene, which actually is only vaguely described.

I thought author Jean Craighead George was very careful not to put in anything specific or graphic. The thirteen-year-old girl was roughed up by her simpleton husband by arranged marriage. And it is the reason she runs away alone on to the tundra. Miyax is resourceful and resilient. She remembers the old ways and survives.

The value of this book is an extraordinary look at Eskimo life and the natural environment. It is beautifully written--crisp, joyful and gnawingly sad. Here is a sample of the opening:

Miyax pushed back the hood of her sealskin parka and looked at the Arctic sun. It was a yellow disc in a lime-green sky, the colors of six o'clock in the evening and the time when the wolves awoke.

The descriptions of life in the wolf pack and how Miyax wheedles her way in as a means of survival are amazing. There is so much to learn about other cultures, how people differ from and are the same as we are. This book is a jewel, which was recognized by George receiving the Newbery Medal.

Banned Books Week is Sept. 25 to Oct. 2, but I'm leading up to it with several reviews of books that have been challenged and deserve support. You can read my first post on this here.


Angela Ackerman said...

OMG, Feed sounds amazing! I'll have to grab it. Thanks!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Stephanie Faris said...

That book's perception of the future may not be all that far off. Although I don't know if I'd want instant messages downloading to my brain!

Melissa Hurst said...

Yes, I will definitely get Feed. Sounds amazing!

Laurel Garver said...

I love your description of cackling and kicking the couch. Now THAT is savoring the humor! Feed is going on my TBR list for sure. :-)

Tere Kirkland said...

Seen Feed around, but never knew much about it. Thanks for the recommendation!

LOVED Julie of the Wolves as a kid.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Angela: Oh, it is! I'm so glad you're going to read it.

@Stephanie: I know! It's such a frightening idea, because it isn't hard to imagine at all.

@Melissa: Do, please!

@Laurel: I'm glad you don't think I'm demented. ;) Really, it's been a long time since I convulsed with laughter. This is biting satire.

@Tere: I think you'll love FEED, too!
And, EVERYBODY, here's a shout-out to Tere, who just signed with an agent. :)

Claire Dawn said...

This sounds so kool! I'm loving dystopian of late. And I'm liking commercial language with deeper themes. Not a big fan of high brow language in novels. But that first sentence ROCKS!

I'm going to keep that in my TBR.

BK Mattingly said...

FEED sounds so fascinating. So many books are coming out! Now, just to find them all a place in my life so I can enjoy them.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed both of these books!!

PJ Hoover said...

I loved the voice in FEED, too, and have to agree it was one of the best openings and covers ever.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Claire: Doesn't it rock??? I think you're gonna love it.

@Bethany: Oh, yeah, find a place for it!

@Paul: They're modern classics, I believe.

@PJ: He nailed that voice and the opening. I was sooooo hooked.

Yat-Yee said...

Oh, oh. I have to read it now. I had already come up with my list to read for Banned Books Week, and Feed was almost on the list, and I don't remember why I dropped it. Back to my list it goes.

Hannah said...

I have Feed in my TBR pile. I'll pick it up one of these days but your review definitely moves it higher up on the list.

It's been many, many years since I've read Julie of the Wolves. I remember liking it but that's about it. I'll have to reread that one of these days.

Donna said...

Thanks for both reviews. They are books that should be spotlighted like this, not banned.

storyqueen said...

I am dying to read FEED....have to get my hands on it sometime soon. That has to be one of the best first lines ever written.


Suzanne Casamento said...

Did anybody attend M.T. Anderson's sessions at the summer SCBWI conference? The guy is mindblowing!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Yat-Yee: Oh, boy, is it list-worthy. ;)

@Hannah: Yeah, yank that puppy to the top of the pile. You'll be happy you did. :D

@Donna: That's my hope that the spotlight will banish darkness.

@Shelley: Isn't it, though? I was sucked right in.

@Suzanne: Oh, you lucky girl! I couldn't attend the conference. I would have died to hear him speak.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great choices - I haven't read Feed, but Anderson is brilliant. And I love Julie - I've read it aloud to classes in the past. :)

Yvonne Osborne said...

I remember doing some posts for Banned Books Week last year. I can't believe it's that time of year again. I have not read either of these and they both sound brilliant so thanks for this post. Though I don't know if I can stand the idea of instant messages going off in my head.... that one might be a little too creepy for me.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Jemi: You must have the coolest classroom in the school. :)

Yvonne: FEED is fascinating, funny and disturbing. I really think you'd love reading it.

Jade said...

I really want to read FEED. I read about the opening line somewhere else and decided to, based only on that.

Unknown said...

It's been on my TBR list for a long time. You have convinced me to put it next in the line up. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Jade: It was the voice that dragged me in and, wow, it stays strong.

@Karen: It's a stand-out, for sure. Glad you're going to read it, but it does go dark.

Bish Denham said...

Feed was an excellent book, but it profoundly disturbed me. Particularly the visit to the "farm." (shivers.)

VR Barkowski said...

FEED sounds amazing! The description of you cackling won me over. :) And I *loved* JULIE OF THE WOLVES. I need to reread it.

Sarah Laurence said...

Great opening line for teens in Feed! I hope this is fiction and not the future. Julie of the Wolves was one of my childhood favorites and my children enjoyed it too. It was an excellent book to listen to on a long drive. Great to see you support banned books. Excellent reviews.

Robyn Campbell said...

Okay, I gotta get this. That opening line is awesome. How'z come I can't ever think of opening lines like that? *sigh*

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Bish: All the environmental melt-downs were disturbing, but it sure made a point.

@Viva: I love a good cackle. :D

@Sarah: Boy, do I not want it to be our future. Horrifying, really.
Thanks, I like doing the banned book posts.

@Robyn: Really is awesome, isn't it? There are other great lines in it, too, but the story goes to a very dark future.

Anonymous said...

I finished Feed a few days ago and thought it was amazing. It's vibrant, yet disturbing.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Medeia: Amazing. Yes! It's one of those books that sticks with you.

Jackee said...

I've been meaning to read Feed, now I'll have to! Julie of the Wolves still stands as such a unique book that I can't imagine it not being so well known. And you're right, the attempted rape scene is inconsecquential in content, but necessary to drive her off the wildlands on her own.

Thanks for sharing! I'll be sure to check back for the rest of your recs! :)

Em and Nora said...

I listened to the audiobook version of Feed last month - great recording. I definitely find it strange that this one gets challenged so frequently.

Shallee said...

Ooh, I LOVED Feed! Thanks for sharing this review!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@Jackee: FEED will blow you away. I guessed you would be a fan of JULIE since it's such an amazing study of Nature.

@Em and Nora: Welcome and thanks for stopping by. It seems all the challengers need is certain topics or words to make them want to ban a book. They don't look beyond to realize the depth, the message, the value within the words.

@Shallee: Welcome and thank you. I'm glad to find another FEED lover!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Julie of the Wolves is one of my favorite books! Now I'll have to look for FEED.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

@TerryLynn: I'm so glad you hopped over for this. I couldn't believe it, either, when I saw Julie on the list. And I hope you enjoy Feed, too.