Anatomy of a Novel: The Unidentified

Anatomy of a Novel: The Unidentified
Guest post by Rae Mariz

FEED by MT Anderson
Feed was sort of my intro to YA and what YA could do. I loved what this book was doing with language and how it exaggerated the effects of consumer culture. Super inspiring. I definitely played off of some of the themes in that book, but I wanted to try and explore what the Feed characters never did... and what I think is central in adolescence... that sense of skepticism and rebellion against the effed up adult world. So the Unidentified characters deal with the same media bombardment, but respond to it in individual ways. I still don’t know what is scarier: total teen apathy like in Feed, or a sense of rebellion that gets absorbed into the machinery like in the Unidentified.
I was a big fan of Adbusters ( growing up. I’d been known to print up stickers and deface advertisements in my time. But at some point, I got disillusioned by what that kind of activism could accomplish. Attacking images sort of gave the superficial more power? And by the time they started selling a shoe with their not-a-logo logo, it felt like a game that couldn't be won. But I’m still fascinated by the blurry line between counter-culture and mainstream and how sometimes you have to squint to see it. If it’s even there anymore.
Micachu and pop music
I thought of modeling the “sponsorship” aspect of the Game on the music industry kind of early on. Sort of playing with all the cultural stories about dreaming of the record deal but how signing the record contract didn’t make the dream of “making it” come true. How it caused more problems/screwed over artists/etc. The insult of “selling out”—and how selling out is a dead concept. Nobody accuses anyone of selling out anymore. There isn’t really any negative connotations to being commercial nowadays. And I thought that was interesting.
I'd described Kid, Mikey and Ari’s approach to music in the story and then I heard Micachu. Or actually I saw this ( and thought OMG YES THIS IS IT.  (WARNING: this is not particularly easy listening, but there is an infectious quality if you give it a chance... or just listen to Floor at 8.22). Micachu's odd instruments but undeniable pop sensibility sounded exactly as I thought the characters’ music would sound. And when I started searching out everything the band had ever done like a sixteen-year-old fangirl, the kindred sense was confirmed by watching the three-person band give awkward interviews and stuff when they were “discovered” by the world media. I genuinely am just a fan of what I heard. Especially the Filthy Friends mixtape that was available from their MySpace page (but sounds more like what Kid collaborating with Tycho would sound like, tbh). Such. A. Fan.
And this isn’t Micachu, but it’s one of the Unidentified’s theme songs/musical influences:
“I am a weapon of massive consumption/It’s not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function...”
Lily Allen
danah boyd and Facebook
danah boyd is a Social Media Researcher and wrote a dissertation ( after interviewing many many teens from various economic backgrounds about their social media practices. It’s probably the only dissertation I’ve ever read from page one to last. I was on the final revision of the story when I found out about her work, but it felt like she scientifically confirmed some of the things I was proposing in the story. Especially about adult fear and restriction of kids’ movements in the larger world. Fascinating work, and cool lady.
MAKEmagazine and etsy
I’m into all manner of DIY, so that’s why so much of it is featured in the Game and its workshops. I knit and sew and refashion sh*t myself, but the Craftsters in the story represent a trend that makes me uncomfortable in crafting circles. The make-it-to-sell-it-on-etsy mentality. I guess I think it makes people mass produce handmade things? And stuff starts to look alike and kind of defeats the purpose.  Anyway, that’s how the Craftster clique came about. Another one of those blurry lines I like.


  1. I love this book, love this writer, and love to hear the pieces that make up the puzzle of a novel. :)

  2. My favourite book at the moment! Truly loved it :D


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