The Short of the Story
FEED, published by Candlewick Press, is a satirical novel set in an imagined future when the Internet and advertising banners are fed directly into people's heads via computer chip. Titus is a teenage protagonist whose ability to read, write, and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by the "feed." He is partying on the moon during spring break when he meets Violet, a bright, independent-minded girl who cares about what's happening to the world and challenges everything Titus and his friends holds dear. M. T. Anderson's skillful use of satire invites readers to recognize elements of the present-day world within the novel's sci-fi setting. Besides being a smart, savage satire, FEED is also a poignant story about human connection and loss that leaves an unforgettable emotional impact.
FEED for Thought: Questions to Discuss
1. Both the "chat" and "bannering" functions of the feed in FEED have their prototypes in modern Internet technology. What might the author be trying to get across by having these functions occur directly within peoples' brains?
2. What would be the benefits and drawbacks of that kind of system?
3. Is there anything like the "lesions" in today's culture?
4. Why do you think the author chose the names he did -- Titus, Link, Violet, and so on -- for his characters? What might their names say about the world they live in?
5. Surrounding the story of Titus and his friends are hints of various international events. Why doesn't Titus seem to be aware of them?
6. Do Titus's actions (and nonactions) in his relationship with Violet strike you as realistic? How do you think you would act if you were in his place?
7. In what way does Titus's conception of love differ from Violet's?
8. In a consumeristic society, once things have outlived their usefulness, they tend to be discarded. How might this attitude affect the way people interact with one another? How might it affect the way they think of the past?
9. Over the course of the book, Violet accuses many people of many things. But are there times when you felt that she, herself, was in the wrong?
10. Violet lists all the things she wants to do before she dies. Do you share any items on the list? What can we learn about her from her list? And what could someone learn about you from YOUR list?
11. How does Violet benefit from resisting the feed? What price does she pay?
12. The author dedicates the book "to those who resist the feed." What does he mean by this? What is "the feed," in a real-life context, and how can it be resisted? What are the benefits and drawbacks of doing so? In what ways do you "resist the feed"?
13. A UTOPIAN novel depicts the perfect world order. A DYSTOPIAN novel is the opposite -- it depicts a future world in which everything has gone wrong (such as George Orwell's 1984, or Aldous Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD -- or movies like the Mad Max series). The third section of FEED is entitled "Utopia." Why might that be? Is this novel utopian or dystopian?
14. Is the scenario depicted in FEED the way you see the world going? If you were to write a dystopian novel, what would be the major problem with the future, based on what you see around you now?
15. What do you think could be done to stop our world from becoming like the world in the book? Would you WANT to stop the world from becoming that way?
Coming to Terms
The author of FEED has invented a "future speak" for his characters that includes words like NULL, MEG, YOUCH, MAL, BRAG, and UNIT. But he never defines these terms. How are you able to figure out their meaning? Try writing a dialogue between two characters from the future that includes your own made-up words. Then let someone else read what you've written and see if they can guess what your invented terms mean.
The Secret of the Sestina
At the end of the chapter "Our Duty to the Party," Violet has a seizure during which she lashes out verbally at the partygoers around her (page 160). Among other things, she accuses them of talking in a "sestina." Say what?
1. Look up the meaning of the word SESTINA. You may want to check out some books or explore some Internet sites that explain more thoroughly what this word means. Copy or print out an example.
2. Now flip back to page 158 in FEED, and reread from there to the end of the chapter. How does the author illustrate (in part) what a sestina is through his dialogue? Why do you think the author chose to use this form?