I finished two books today. One, the lackluster Fallen, by Lauren Kate, and the other the gut-wrenching Feed by M. T. Anderson. Fallen clocked in at around 236 pages on my ereader, Feed at 204. It took me three days to read Fallen. I read Feed in a matter of four hours (with a break for a 90 minute movie in there.) Which am I recommending? Guess.

Fallen is Crap with a capital C, and I wish I could be nicer about it, but there is frankly nothing the book does right. I don’t know why I finished it. I should have put it down, but the reviews on Amazon led me to believe it got better at the end. It did not. What does it do you wrong specifically?

A-The book is s-l-o-w. Sure stuff happens. Food gets dumped on our main character. She sneaks around looking for files. She goes to a party and drink champagne. She has dreams about the hottie we’re supposed to be swooning over. But nowhere in the entire book is there a real sense of any kind of stakes. Like, the main character…Luce is her name. Luce wants nothing. Except maybe Daniel (the hottie.) But she only wants Daniel because they’re destined to want each other. She’s reincarnated continually wanting him. (And I’m giving nothing away there as it was obvious from the first chapter that was what was going on.) So, she’s just completely without any desires of her own. She is a non-character.

B-It’s supposed to be set at a reform school, but the students there are NEVER supervised. There’s a whole big deal made about cameras, but that never provides any consequences. There is a detention scene which involves waking up at the crack of dawn and cleaning off headstones. I found it hard to believe a teacher would willingly give out such a punishment when she knew she’d have to get up at the crack of dawn too. But then, I’m a teacher. I thought maybe the school was actually a front for the supernatural happenings going on, but that didn’t pan out. It was just a completely unbelievable setting.

C-Daniel is a jerk when Luce wants him, and then boring and idiotic when she gets him.

D-Nothing makes any sense at all. There are good fallen angels and bad fallen angels and sometimes they fight each other, even though neither of them can actually win. No seriously, they said that. I don’t get it either. For some reason, Luce and Daniel being together is tied into the end of the world. What? How angels fall is not really explained. The big battle at the end is offscreen. Luce is a damsel in distress waiting to be saved, which could be okay if there was some kind of important character arc for her. (Come on, even Bella had to decide whether or not she wanted to leave her family to be a vampire and wrestle with her ideas of being a young bride). But, there’s not, because the story just happens to her. The whole time.

I later did research on Lauren Kate and she used to work in the publishing industry. It seems her books were sold on premise alone. The premise is pretty fab. The execution is horrendous. But she’s making bestseller lists, proving M. T. Anderson’s point that people are stupid and will buy whatever the mainstream media tells them to buy.

And maybe that seems harsh, but Feed just reached inside me and scraped open my insides, and I feel kind of raw all over. Unit, that book is INSANE.

You must read it. It won’t make you feel good. It will make you sad and angry. It will make you want to strangle the main character. But it will make you think. Reading this book will make you smarter, if you let it.

Feed is a dystopian YA book that’s actually dystopian. I mean, a book where there’s no real hero or happy ending. It’s like 1984 or Brave New World. It’s just mind-bogglingly effective. The story is…well, it’s the future, and everyone has the internet in their heads. (The Feed.) The world is completely run by several large corporations, and life is all about buying things. Everyone’s kind of stupid and self-centered. There’s lots of absolutely hilarious bits of satire, like the lyrics of songs in the future, which are all completely insipid and simplistic. Also, school is now run by corporations, so it’s School (TM). Yeah, school is trademarked, which is just fantastic. The feeds are really insidious, like Amazon recommendations being poured into your head twenty-four-seven. (Speaking of which…buy my novella, Little Sister. Only 99 cents. Here.) But all is not well and good. For instance, everyone has these weird skin lesions, probably from the feed (or the lack of a real environment. Who knows?) but they make them trendy, so people start getting fake skin lesions put on their body.

All right, so the main character, a boy named Titus, is possibly a little bit less stupid than the rest of his friends. He meets a girl named Violet, who is really smart. She didn’t get a feed until she was seven or eight, and her father’s a professor, so she’s a little off center. What I thought was absolutely brilliant was that Anderson gets Violet right. She’s a homeschooled kid from a radical family. She longs to be like everyone else–normal. But she’s been given too much ability to form free thought to ever fit in with the mainstream. (This is so poignant, because I so identify, having been raised in a radically religious home myself. And radically religious or radically leftist is honestly a lot the same for a kid.) Anyway, for a while the book just tells their somewhat kooky love story. And then, we find out that Violet’s feed is malfunctioning because she got it so late, not as a baby. And it’s killing her.

And then…oh God. You just have to read it. Like now. This book is sort of “Flowers for Algernon” meets A Clockwork Orange. What makes it work is not its (somewhat heavy handed) satirical look at consumerism, but its ability to make you fall in love with its characters.

M. T. Anderson also has a vampire book out called Thirsty, which I am planning on reading next. This guy (or girl?) is freaking amazing.