Books that Should be Taught in School: Feed by Mira Grant

You’re probably thinking I’ve gone insane right now, aren’t you?  At least, literary snobs, those of you that have read Feed and those of you that have seen my review are.  I mean, a zombie novel in school.  How crazy can you get?  Well, it’s actually not that crazy.  So please hear me out before you pass judgment:
1.  It will engage high school students.

Yes, Feed has violence and coarse language.  Yes, it’s a zombie novel.  But I know for a fact that ‘worse’ books (content-wise) have been studied in school.  Does anyone here remember reading Catch-22 in high school English?  When I first read it, I was shocked that anyone ever studied this in school, yet it was still studied because it was a good novelFeed is an excellent novel and in my honest opinion, it’s no worse than Joseph Heller’s classic novel.  In some aspects, it is less ‘offensive’.

In most people’s minds zombies=awesome.  By high school, most people (especially boys in my experience) hate reading passionately.  Educators are always asking themselves how to improve reading scores and get kids interested in reading again.

Do you see where I’m going here?

Feed has all of the themes, messages and three dimensional characters that educators love to analyze to death while having all of the zombies, weapons and gross science that teenagers love.  It has bad language and violence (obviously), but for kids in grade 11 and 12…they’re going to see and hear a lot worse on television on an ordinary day.

2.  It’s a zombie novel, but it’s an intelligent zombie novel.

This isn’t just a “Run!  The zombies are gonna kill us all!” zombie novel.  Feed takes place twenty years after the Rising and Mira Grant has done some amazingly realistic projections about a society post-apocalypse.  The rise of the bloggers, blood testing technology, the threat of weaponized Kellis-Amberlee, security at the price of freedom…all these topics can be used to bring up topics that are relevant today.  If you were to pick just one of these topics to debate, I think ‘security at the price of freedom’ would bring out some of the best and worst in high school students, depending on how politically aware they are.

Since Mira Grant goes into the nitty-gritty of the Kellis-Amberlee virus, students can discuss the plausibility of such an outbreak and I guarantee that ‘zombie virus’ research projects would elicit an enthusiastic response.  Other possible essay topics could include why bloggers gain more power after the Rising, biological/chemical warfare in the ancient and modern world, how the 40lbs amplification threshold would change the world as we know it, the ethics of journalism and if there are times when the truth shouldn’t be told…I could go on and on.  The point is that there are so many topics brought up in Feed you could spend a whole year on it.

3.  It has something for everyone.

You don’t have to be a zombie-obsessed to love Feed.  Heck, I was terrified of zombies until I read the Newsflesh Trilogy.  The best books are the ones that can be understood on different levels and appreciated by many different people.  Feed is one of them.

For some people, it can just be a zombie survival novel.  For the politically inclined, it could be a warning against genetic modification and the government gaining too much power in the name of safety.  It can be a tale of friendship conflicting with personal beliefs.  It can be blogger-revenge on the traditional media and an important lesson about blogger ethics.  Really, it can be anything to anyone!  And that’s the beauty of it: when teachers set an assignment asking what it means to students, there is no wrong answer.

Feed is the kind of book that inspires extreme views; either you absolutely love it or you absolutely abhor it.  As far as I can tell, most people absolutely love it.  That’s why I confidently recommended it to Caleb from 20four12 and many others.  That’s why I’m sticking my neck out here to recommend it as a novel study book.  I don’t think any educators will listen to some nobody blogger, but I’m just putting the thought out there.

So, what books do you think should be studied in school?  Would you have loved novel study more if you read something like Feed?

12 comments

  1. Caleb Flanagan

    It would have been awesome to read a bood like “Feed” when I was in school. On a similar note, my little sister was told she needed to read “Cinder” this summer for her AP English class.

    • Carrie Slager

      That’s great! Cinder is definitely a good book to study, but I’m surprised they’re studying it in AP English. I guess it’s like The Hunger Games being taught in school. They’re finally choosing modern, relevant novels!

  2. Grace

    Yay! I wish that schools would teach books that would resonate more with their students. If all you teach is stuff like Pride and Prejudice or Shakespeare, people don’t realize that there’s a lot more diversity out there and that reading can be fun and not seem like a chore.

    • Carrie Slager

      Reading should never seem like a chore, but unfortunately schools make it seem like one. No wonder reading test scores are lower than they should be! If you hate something, obviously you’re not going to put much effort into it and you won’t succeed.

  3. Krista

    I agree and disagree with you, yes some reading that is required in schools may seem like a chore to many, but as a parent/mother I think that there are reasons that books like this are not required. No one can stop you from reading on your free time what you want, so go ahead, but as a parent I think that the school has guidelines. “Modern” books you want, well most books that are “modern” are written based on story lines of the “classics” i.e, Pride and Prejudice, Time Machine, Lord of the Flies. There are alot of books that engage young readers. School guidelines of books are set that way to increase vocab, writing, sentence structure, etc. I see your point about wanting these books but I disagree with them being required reading for discusssion in the classroom. If reading classic books seem like a chore to you, sorry. But trust me when you get a little older you will be glad you read them. I know I was, I’m not that old but 32 with 5 children is old enough to know why schools set guidelines. More than just the plot line sometimes.

    • Carrie Slager

      The main problem with your argument is that you’re assuming students read on their own time. In my experience, they generally don’t because by middle school, reading IS a chore for them. Especially for boys, who are victims of the cultural perception that reading is a feminine activity. I know people that proudly proclaim they haven’t read a book cover-to-cover in years. Sadly, I think this is true.

      You argue that most modern books are based on the classics. I agree. So why not have modern books that will resonate with readers and have the same themes as the classics? Why not let them enjoy reading modern novels and give them the tools to enjoy the classics when they are more mature and bring far greater life experience to them?

      I have never claimed that all classic books seem like a chore to me. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed Catch-22, The Iliad, Paradise Lost, The Divine Comedy and even some of Shakespeare. One main reason for this is that I was exposed to literature at a young age by my parents and grew up with it. Unfortunately, not many kids have this wonderful opportunity and are mainly exposed to reading in school, where they are forced to read certain books. If they don’t enjoy reading from the start, how do you expect them to enjoy the classics in high school and in later life?

      Give kids the tools to enjoy reading and they’ll surprise you. But force the classics on them before they’re ready and watch them rebel.

  4. Thomas

    I agree with this post entirely, as a high school student right now Feed would be a fantastic choice. Like you said it possesses many themes that would lead to great discussion – parental issues, genetic modification, zombies, etc. Heck, the freshmen at my school read the Hunger Games, so if that book can be read, so can this one. (:

  5. Krista

    I think you underestimate teenagers entirely and no matter what someones says you will unless they agree with your point which most adults will not. There are reasons for things that are set in place. Thats why parents and teachers are the educators and not the teenagers. Trust me I was a teenager once too not too long ago and I know. Your point is that of a highschool student. Think beyond the box for just a moment.

  6. Cassie

    Gosh, I wish we’d read more contemporary books in high school. I do think the classics should be taught, because they’re going to encounter them in college courses; but why not have high schoolers read books like The Hunger Games as part of an English class as well (or, for that matter, a history or social studies or psychology class)? Contemporary YA and children’s literature has tremendous untapped potential.

    And I’m not a teenager by the way. I’m a real live grown-up who appreciates good literature wherever I can find it.

    As for novels I would have liked to study in school…what about the other Feed? The one by M.T. Anderson? That book is a lesson on the dangers of the consumer culture wrapped in awesomeness.

    • Carrie Slager

      Sometimes I think it’s only book snobs that advocate for teaching ‘classics’ only. Yes, they’re classics, but that doesn’t mean you have to read them and it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good either. Look at The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. It’s like opera snobs who think opera is so beautiful and so meaningful and listening to it makes them better than everyone else. I listen to opera and over time I’ve come to the conclusion that it was a contest between composers to see who could get the most crap past the censors. Opera is beautiful and it is meaningful, but it’s far from intellectual. (See the lyrics to the Brindisi from La Traviata. Or the very politically correct ‘La Donna e Mobile’ from Rigoletto.)

      I’ve heard of the other Feed by Anderson and I think it is studied in some schools. Unfortunately, I never studied it and by the sounds of it, you didn’t either. I’ve heard great things about it, though!

      Contemporary doesn’t mean stupid or bad, but book snobs seem to think it does.

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