So, in my last post, I introduced the first sentence of FEED by M.T. Anderson which was:

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

I talked about how it introduces you to character and setting and touched on the introduction of a story question.  Why did the moon suck?  Well, as I was reading this the first time, I thought the moon sucked because these are some bored, over-privileged kids who have seen and done everything.  For the first forty pages, that’s exactly what it looks like.  I kept reading because a weekend trip to the moon is interesting and you get the start of a little love story, which is always fun, BUT if that’s all there had been I would have undoubtedly put the book down.  World-building can only go so far.

Then, (and I feel comfortable revealing this because it appears on the plot synopsis on Mr. Anderson’s website) Titus and his cohort of friends get hacked.

Whew!  That was fantastic.  It affected the writing style (which I’ll go into more in my next post), it gave a real sense of danger, and it showed Titus dealing without his feed.  It also gives a lot of insight into the unfairness of this corporate-run world.  Titus and his friends have the best of everything, including feed technology.  Violet, Titus’s new love interest, doesn’t.  Naturally, this is going to create a problem for Violet.

OK, but here’s the thing.  We get hints and clues that there will be some ill effects from this hacking experience as the book goes on, but the middle half of the book is standard teen love story.  Titus falls for Violet.  She’s brainy and different, which is what attracts him to her in the first place.  But later, she makes him uncomfortable because she is so smart.  She challenges the establishment.  He IS the establishment.  This is the conflict that drives about half of the book.

And it works.  Love stories are cool.  And love stories juxtaposed with a grim and sometimes completely icky setting (seriously–the characters have lesions, they’re losing their hair, and did I mention the MEAT FARM?), make the whole thing even more interesting.  And then you get the conflict–the completely human conflict–of being intellectually intimidated by someone you care about and it’s sheer story-telling greatness.  You like Titus and Violet.  Neither one is perfect but they’re both very likeable and you’re pulling for them.

When Mr. Anderson revisits the idea that there are going to be some lasting repercussions from the hack at the beginning of the book (about 2/3 of the way through), you are so invested in the characters, the reality of the situation just slams you in the chest.  That’s the tension that propels you to the end of the book.

So, next time…writing style.  This one had a frenetic, kind of frenzied quality about it which was really fitting to the tale.  Voice coming out its ears.  But, it was the one thing that almost made me put the book down.  So I guess it begs the question, how much voice is too much voice?  Is there any such a thing?