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.