________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 33 . . . . April 27, 2018



Patrick Weekes.
New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Distributed in Canada by Simon & Schuster), 2018.
292 pp., hardcover, $23.99.
ISBN 978-1-5344-0016-0.

Grades 8-10 / Ages 13-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

** /4



"Okay," said Maya after a moment, "I feel like there's a geeky thing here that the guys who played the dice games used to talk about, where the red dragon head breathes fire, and the black one breathes lightning –"

"Please don't," Tapper growled. "And the black dragon head breathes acid."

"She is a Sumerian goddess," Iara said. "She is thousands of years old."

"She's a monster," Tapper said. "She
is that giant eel thing we swam past to get here. The human shape is just a disguise."

"That's sick," Hawk said. "So it's like a feeder making everyone think it's a real person, and its real body is hiding down in the dark …"

"None of that matters," Lori said, her voice quick and clipped. Her phone buzzed in her hand, and she jerked it away to read it. Then she looked at all of them and grimaced. "What matters is that we only have until tomorrow to kill her."

"So how does this help us?" Hawk asked. "We maybe know what she is. We don't know what she wants, except that it has to do with the miracoral." He pointed at the words etched into the ground around the cluster. "Maybe if we figure out what she needs, we'll figure out a weakness, and then we can hit her there."

Stepping carefully, as though the words on the floor might hurt him, he moved toward the aquarium on the floor. The glow of the miracoral intensified as he drew closer, its warm golden color inviting him to keep coming. Iara could hear the color in some part of her mind, her special gift letting her process the growing light as a song as pure as the chime of a bell.

Then, from behind them, a woman's deep voice echoed across the chamber.

"It seems I was a fool for trying to capture you," said Tia Lake as she entered the room, her stiletto heels clacking on the floor, "when you were willing to come here yourselves the whole time."

In order to support herself and her younger brother, Ben, 16-year-old Lori Fisher hunts monsters. Specifically she hunts "feeders", a sort of alien being which takes over human bodies to use as hosts. During one of her assignments, Lori finds and frees a group of teenagers being held captive by the Lake Foundation. Together, Lori and the teens, aka the Nix, try to find out who or what is behind the Lake Foundation and its nefarious plans. If they don't eliminate the Foundation, the Foundation will eliminate them. It's that simple.

      Lori is an interesting main character and the best part of this young adult novel. She is older than her years, and her actions and thoughts are more adult than those of the teens she rescues. Throughout the book, Lori often questions herself and wonders if she could do anything at all if it weren't for the Handler, a mysterious being who communicates her entirely through text messages. There are times, in fact, when Lori is so overwhelmed by the monsters and creatures surrounding her that she questions her own humanity. As in most coming-of-age novels, Lori is more self-assured and secure by the end of the book and realizes, along with her teen companions, that everyone is unique and should be accepted for whatever he/she has to offer.

      The group of rescued teenagers is an interesting assortment of ethnicities, personalities and powers. The novel is narrated by all of them at one time or another, and so readers see events from various points of view. At the beginning, these constant changes are confusing, and it is only well into the book that readers are able to sort out the individual characters. Compared to Lori, they all seem much younger and less mature.

      Weekes tries to do a great deal in the secondary characters featured in this young adult novel. He tackles the subjects of the LGBT community, physical impairments, autism, ADHD and the stereotypes of various ethnicities. Rather than shedding light on any specific issue, these issues all seem muddled together, and it feels as though they are only mentioned because they are timely for current teen readers. That these teens also all have some sort of superpowers further complicates the plot. The teen characters play into the overall theme of "being accepted for who you are", but the characters and their relationships seem unnecessarily complicated.

      Feeder is a mix of action and adventure and science-fiction, with plenty of fighting and monsters in every chapter. The action is fast-paced to the extreme, leaving readers little time to appreciate other aspects of the novel. The never-ending action sequences will appeal to some readers, but, in general, they seem to serve little purpose in advancing the plot. The author has worked on games in the "Dragon Age" and "Mass Effect" series, and this background is clear in the way the novel is written. Weekes has chosen to throw in some romance as well. The entire story takes place within a span of five days, and supposedly the Nix only just met when they were captured by the Lake Foundation. Declarations of love and everlasting friendship in this context seem only remotely likely, if not inane.

      The setting of the novel is a futuristic one when most coastal cities are under water and transportation depends on canals and ferries instead of roads and automobiles. This corresponds to the Lake Foundation and the frightening aspects of the feeders and other monsters. All seem like creatures of the deepest oceans, terrifying and yet somehow beautiful at the same time. Weekes presents a setting which mirrors the human subconscious and some of our deepest fears.

      Feeder will leave readers with more questions than answers about many of the plot sequences and the bizarre cast of teenage Nix just doesn't resonate. Fortunately the protagonist, Lori, is a believable and likeable character who is able to carry the book, and many young readers will sympathize with her and relate to her.


Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, contact cm@umanitoba.ca.

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