Since Jedi Camp was in Oak Ridge, I did a lot of waiting between drop-off and pick-up. One day, I used my waiting time to read “Feed” by M.T. Anderson. Feed is a young adult fiction novel that is a cautionary tale, a la Reefer Madness, about the dangers of technology, social media and the “feed” of advertising. It was the assigned summer reading for my teen’s high school until parents fussed about the book’s content. So, I read it.
I would have read it even if it hadn’t caused controversy. I can’t chat with my children about their reading assignments if I haven’t read them and teen fiction is about as difficult to read as popcorn is to microwave. The fact that some parents declared it inappropriate just moved it to the top of my reading queue.
The book is written by an adult trying to use future teen lingo. The author starts out with a few profanities woven into the teenspeak that he has created, so that readers can understand the message and mood the teens are communicating. Without the initial use of familiar words, the full impact of the teens’ aimless disconnect from the world outside of their social circle would be lost on readers. The words that are commonplace regardless of how much parents shelter their teens, fade from the book’s text after a few chapters.
The book is actually an excellent choice for high school summer reading. It is one giant conversation starter for adolescents. With the exception of the author’s glaring observation that marketing isn’t just targeting everything we do, but actually changing who we are, the topics for discussion don’t have easy answers and teens are allowed to individually form their own opinions and ideas. Under the guidance of teachers, conversations and essays that sprout from the seeds of this story could become insightful analysis of our culture, our world and our survival.
I am disappointed that the school had to offer an alternative choice and stifle the school-wide discussions that should happen about Feed. The fact that the alternative choice is something my teens read in fifth grade makes an otherwise good book seem much too childish for 14 and 15-year-old adolescents whose real lives are likely far more colorful than a few curse words.
Read Feed for yourself and tell me if you think it is a good summer reading assignment for high school students.