Friday, October 14, 2011

Bumped - Megan McCafferty

Title: Bumped
Author: Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Balzer + Bray, 2011 (Hardcover)
Length: 323 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction, Science Fiction
Started: October 11, 2011
Finished: October 14, 2011

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.

From New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty comes a strikingly original look at friendship, love, and sisterhood—in a future that is eerily believable.

I've been wanting to read this for a long time and a copy finally came in at my library, which was good for me since this is once of the more intriguing novels I've read recently.

Bumped takes place in 2036 a dystopian universe where a virus destroys fertility in both males and females beginning between the ages of 18-20. With reproductive technologies being useless in this area, couples wanting a child turn to teenaged boys and girls as sperm and egg donors/surrogates for their children. So to say that in this world, teenage girls are highly valued is a bit of an understatement. I love the feel of this book right off the bat. You hit the ground running in Bumped, you're thrown right into this world where teenage pregnancy is encouraged and exploited rather than shamed, it's kind of like a huge celebrity scene where the best surrogates and sperm donors are asked for autographs and have their own agents and receive multi-million dollar contracts from clients. Because the author throws you into this world with no info-dumping at the beginning, it does take a little while to get used to the world and the terminology before you begin to really understand where the author's going with all this.

Amidst this whole crazy world that encourages sexuality in young girls are Melody and Harmony, 16-year-old identical twins separated at birth and adopted out into two completely different set of circumstances. Melody goes to a family that primes her to be a professional surrogate from an early age, whereas Harmony is adopted into Goodside, a religious community separate from the teen pregnancy-obsessed culture that is Melody's life. The book opens with Harmony and Melody meeting for the first time after having discovered the other upon investigation of their adoption records. Harmony intends to try to make Melody see the error of her ways and to try to bring her back to Goodside so she can be an honest wife and mother. Melody on the other hand is caught up in maintaining her exclusive contract with the Jaydens, a couple whose child she will bare once a suitable sperm donor is found. Right away the two worlds are juxtaposed, Harmony's uber religious life is messed up something fierce, but so is Melody's in a different way, it really highlights the fact that the situations both girls are coming from are bad on both ends of the spectrum.

I love how pregnancy itself is at first shown to be this happy, bouncy kind of thing that all these girls want and that their government wants them to want, and you see the propaganda that the girls are shown on a daily basis. But as the book unravels you see how things aren't as wonderful as they seem: the girls are given drugs to prevent them from bonding with their babies so they can easily give them up at birth, and anyone who somehow isn't affected by the drugs or doesn't take them is taken away to a remote facility. Girls suffer pregnancy complications and are affected for the rest of their lives for an action that not many of them give too much thought to because their world doesn't want them to consider the risks involved. The practice of eugenics is also widely used, which harkens back to some serious Nazi Germany mental images. So the author doesn't completely promote the idea of teen pregnancy for anyone who's worried that that might be an issue.

There were a few things that I noticed though. If fertility is destroyed sometime between the ages of 18-20, I can get why reproductive technology like IVF and such wouldn't work on older people (I'll ignore the fact that the virus causing all this is never really explained, but I'm used to that in these types of books), but why wouldn't they be able to use such technology on the teenagers themselves, thereby removing the act of sex altogether? They make this whole big deal over the act itself, whether that's to get the kids interested or whatever, but you'd think to ensure success they'd simply make it more clinical rather than rely on the act to just work....unless the author's trying to shown how corrupted and soulless this world is, which if that's her game she succeeded. Also, I think for a reader to actually get the full extent of the "teen pregnancy isn't as awesome as it seems" bit, they'd have to have a lot of knowledge about pregnancy. There's a lot of specialized terminology thrown around that assumes the reader understands the depth to, but your average young adult reader wouldn't (most teenage girls I teach don't have a freaking clue about pregnancy beyond the basic stuff), I understood because I currently am pregnant and have practically memorized sections of pregnancy books, but I fear a lot of the stuff mentioned will fly over the heads of targeted readers, which is kind of sad because the beauty is in these subtle details that get thrown around. One thing that's completely personal, I hated Harmony and felt she was very unrealistic. I get that she was raised in a very sheltered environment but falling for every guy that pays her the slightest bit of attention and then running off with the guy she knows is supposed to bump with her twin sister? Sorry, not quite believable in my eyes. She does redeem herself in the end and I appreciate the point of view shown through her, but as a character she just annoyed the crap out of me.

As an obvious note, there's a lot of sexual innuendo and sexual language in this book, there's pre-teens talking about sperm donors in such a sexual manner that it made me uncomfortable, and again I know it's to show how they're idealized like celebrities, but it's still super creepy. It completely blows your mind in terms of how we're conditioned to think about kids and young adults and sex, so obviously this is something you'd give an extremely mature reader, one that can understand the subtleties that the author is trying to do here.

Excellent book that explores the idea of teen pregnancy in a witty and subversive way that's well written with an incredible amount of world-building. Given that, the sexual content contained here means this book should only be given to mature readers that will understand that the author is not in fact glorifying anything here.

Thoughts on the cover:
Simple but appropriate.

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