The first book in a provocative new series from acclaimed author Donna Freitas—Feed for a new generation.
Humanity is split into the App World and the Real World—an extravagant virtual world for the wealthy and a dying physical world for the poor. Years ago, Skylar Cruz’s family sent her to the App World for a chance at a better life.
Now Skye is a nobody, a virtual sixteen-year-old girl without any glamorous effects or expensive downloads to make her stand out in the App World. Yet none of that matters to Skye. All she wants is a chance to unplug and see her mother and sister again.
But when the borders between worlds suddenly close, Skye loses that chance. Desperate to reach her family, Skye risks everything to get back to the physical world. Once she arrives, however, she discovers a much larger, darker reality than the one she remembers.
In the tradition of M. T. Anderson’s Feed and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, Unplugged kicks off a thrilling and timely sci-fi series for teens from an award-winning writer.
Hello Donna! We are super excited to have you in our FFBC tours.
I’m excited to be here!
BTW: These are hard questions! Actually, they are nearly impossible. I have so many favorites.
At the moment: Mary Pearson’s The Remnant Chronicles books. And also at the moment, The Odds of Lightning by Jocelyn Davies. But I have so many other favorite books over the years!
Favorite TV show?
At the moment: The Good Wife. And, I have to admit: I am a tad obsessed with Outlander. (I am, I am!)
One of them, for sure, is Strictly Ballroom.
Your Favorite Song?
At the moment: I keep listening to “Ink” by Coldplay.
That is truly an impossible question. I don’t even know how to begin. I love eating. Let’s just say my favorite activity might be eating.
Name 3 fictional places you would move to in a heartbeat.
Lyra’s Oxford in His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.
I’d like to visit Hogwarts. I mean, who wouldn’t?
I’d also like to visit a kingdom where people have Graces, as in the world of Graceling by Kristin Cashore.
Who is your perfect fictional boyfriend?
Eugenides in Megan Whalen Turner’s books. Also, maybe Po from Graceling.
Don’t know. There are so many thinkers that I love! (I was a philosophy major and well, I have a Ph.D. So I feel like I can’t commit to just on quotation.)
What do you find yourself “Fangirling” over?
Lately, Mary Pearson because I love her new series so much. Though I always fangirl over Philip Pullman. And I just fangirled Jocelyn Davies actually, through her website.
If you could meet one author, dead or alive, who would it be?
I think Julian of Norwich, which may sound weird. But she was a 14th century anchoress, which means she lived in the walls of a church. And I’d love to have a conversation with her! (I’ve already met Philip Pullman, otherwise I’d say him.)
Could you tell our Book Addicts a little bit about Unplugged?
Unplugged takes place in the near future, where the world has split in two: There is the App World, where people plug in their bodies, often from birth, and grow up virtually in a city where you can download apps to your brain and body. Apps can change how you look, your personality, your abilities—all for a price, and only for a short time. Then you revert back to your basic self, until you download again. Then there is the Real World, which has nearly been deserted for the App World, where there live the Keepers, charged with taking care of and maintaining the plugged-in bodies.
My protagonist, Skylar (Skye), grew up plugged in as a Single—which is basically a ward of the state—since she plugged in without her family. Her family could only afford to send one child to the App World and her mother chose her. This means that she hasn’t seen her family for over a decade. She likes the App World, but she longs to unplug and see her mother and sister again.
So Unplugged is about Skye’s decision to unplug illegally, and all that happens as a result of her choice to do this. The Real World, as she will find, can be a sinister place.
Can you tell us a bit more about the world in Unplugged? If you could choose between the App World and the Real World, which one would you choose and why?
In Unplugged, the world has split in two worlds—one real, one virtual. The Real World is nearly uninhabited in the time of the story, with almost all citizens consolidating into a single city, New Port City (yes, based on Newport in RI, where I’m from), where they are tasked with taking care of all the plugged in bodies. The virtual world—the App World—is a rather magical virtual city, where people live wholly virtually, and Apps (what really drives this world) can be downloaded to the body to change your looks, your personality, your abilities. Most App World citizens plug in at birth at the time of the story, and grow up virtually, so they don’t even know what it’s like to be in their bodies.
As for me? I’d love to try living virtually for a while! And see what it’s like to download Apps to myself—I think it would be so much fun. But I’m a Real World girl all the way. No doubt about it!
Also, can you tell us a bit more about Skye and her personality?
Skye is an orphan of sorts—called a Single in the book—at least in the App World she is. Her mother plugged her in when she was little, as a way of offering her daughter a promising future, but this also meant allowing her daughter to grow up without her family. Skye knows she should be grateful her mother did this, but she’s always had a bit of a trauma around it too—she wonders if her mother abandoned her. And she longs to go home.
At the beginning of the story, Skye is pretty normal—she follows the rules and keeps her head down—but then she decided to unplug illegally in an effort to reconnect with her family and this is when Skye begins to discover all sorts of interesting things about herself that she never knew, and also about her family. She is a bit of a reluctant heroine, I suppose you could say! But she definitely also likes to have a good time. J
How did you come up with the story? Did you find inspiration in any other story/movie/show and how has this affected your writing?
I came up with the story because I was fantasizing with friends one day about what it would be like to be able to give ourselves “updates” like we do on our laptops and phones—like, what would Donna 4.0 be like? The entire story of Unplugged flowed from that moment!
Tell us your favorite quote from Unplugged.
Gosh. I don’t know. I’m bad at quotes in general, but especially quoting myself!
Is there a specific scene that you had the most fun to write?
I think the scene when Skye is waking up at her Keeper’s house in the Real World, so (nearly) her first time of being in her real body as a 17 year old. She can’t figure out how to talk or sit up or walk or really do anything. She can barely even see. All because her body is no longer accustomed to being used in the Real World, and she has to relearn how to do these most basic things to function.
If you had to pick one song to be the Theme Song for Unplugged – Which one would you pick?
I think “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay. Yes, because of my protagonist’s name. But I think that song captures the wonder and joy Skylar eventually feels about being in the Real World.
Then I’d pick “Ink” also by Coldplay for the sequel which is called The Body Market, partly because of a new central character, a boy, who has a lot of tattoos. And is quite dreamy, I think!
Imagine that we get to see your book on the big screen (how awesome would that be?). Who would you pick to play your characters?
OMG! That would be the best ever. I don’t even know how I’d begin casting. Skylar is Latina, so I’d want to find a fantastic young Latina actress to play her. And maybe for Lacy, the villainess—I love, love, love Hannah from Pretty Little Liars. I think she could make a great Lacy!
Is there any recommendations you could give your readers to be in the “perfect mood” to read Unplugged (specific music, snacks…)?
Well, Coldplay obviously, if you like them! And lots of deliciousness in terms of food—eating real food is one of the great joys for Skylar when she gets to the Real World. Strawberries especially. She thinks they’re magical.
What’s next for you?
Two more books in the series! The Body Market which comes out soon—this winter! And The Mind Virus which will soon follow that, in the fall of 2017. I’ve loved working on this series and I hope you and your readers enjoy it too!
Something to say to our Book Addicts?
Thank you for having me! I hope I can consider myself an honorary Book Addict. I certainly feel like I am addicted to books. And I hope you like my new series!
Thank you so much for everything, Donna!
Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it! xoxo
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Donna Freitas is an author of fiction, nonfiction, and articles that appear in newspapers, magazines, and on blogs. Born in Rhode Island, Donna now splits her time between New York City and Barcelona.