“I don’t know when they first had feeds. Like maybe, fifty or a hundred years ago. Before than, they had to use their hands and their eyes. Computers were all outside the body. They carried them around outside of them, in their hands, like if you carried your lungs in a briefcase and opened it to breathe.”
Titus and his friends have grown up on the feed—connected on a 24-hour basis through brain implants to a vast computer network, they have become their medium. “The braggest thing about the feed . . . is that it knows everything you want and hope for, sometimes before you even know what those things are.” Titus is a master at navigating this world where to consume is to live, but when he meets Violet, a distinctly unusual girl whose philology-professor father has chosen to homeschool her instead of sending her to School™, he begins, very tentatively and imperfectly, to question this equation. Thrown together when their feeds are hacked at a party and they are temporarily disconnected, their very hesitant romance is played out against the backdrop of an utterly hedonistic world of trend and acquisition, a world only momentarily disturbed by the news reports of environmental waste and a global alliance of have-not nations against the obliviously consuming US. Anderson (Handel, Who Knew What He Liked, 2001, etc.) has crafted a wickedly clever narrative in which Titus’s voice takes on perfectly the speech patterns of today’s more vapid teens (“ ‘Oh, unit,’ I was like, ‘is this malfunction?’ ”). When Violet’s feed begins to fail, and with it all her life functions, she decides to rebel against all that the feed stands for—the degradation of language, the self-absorption, the leaching of all culture and independent thought from the world—and Titus must make his choice.
The crystalline realization of this wildly dystopic future carries in it obvious and enormous implications for today’s readers—satire at its finest. (Fiction. YA)