Review: Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Bumped CoverBumped by Megan McCafferty is an alternative to the usual dystopian literature appearing on the horizon lately. Instead of zombies and werewolves and gore (oh my!), we are plunged into a world where teenage sex is not only promoted but valued higher than rubies.

Blurb from Harper Collins:

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to 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. Until 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 bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her 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.

Bumped is a world where ‘Teen Mom” meets the Handmaid’s Tale; there is a mysterious virus that renders the population unable to bear children as adults. The only hope for human survival lies in the teenagers, who are now the most important people in society.  We are introduced to twins Melody and Harmony, who have been separated since birth and, as a result, have lived very different lives.

Melody is in the midst of negotiating the most lucrative deal out of her group of professional surrogates; however, time is running out as she is sixteen and yet to have conceived. Harmony has been raised in a religious society that shuns the idea of teen surrogacy, preferring to believe in God’s divine law in creating ‘natural’ families. Neither girl is exactly happy about their situation, and each secretly longs for something the other seems to have: fertility freedom. McCafferty could have made them into obvious caricatures, but instead gave the girls realistic feelings and growth over the course of the novel.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the believable teenage view of the world (complete by MiNet and teen chatting), and the slow realization of the two main female characters that the life they were living was not the life of their choosing. Both girls had to expand their personal views in relation to their connection to being a twin; it was fascinating to see how McCafferty made that part of the storytelling, instead of a basic ‘info dump’ of character development. It was also interesting to watch the development of the sister relationship; it began to blossom most interestingly in the final third of the book and I’ll look forward to seeing how that continues to develop in the inevitable sequel.

I would have liked to see a bit more development with the male characters of Zen and Jondoe; both play an important role in the lives of each of the girls, and I felt that Zen in particular could have benefited from a bit more detail. You understand immediately that he’s the better fit – mentally – for Melody, and you are secretly rooting for him throughout the entire story. Having said that, Jondoe was a fascinating character, and  (MILD SPOILER) I honestly couldn’t say if I trusted him fully or not by the end of the book.

Overall, it’s a gripping read, and one that is sure to capture the attention of both young (and not so young) readers. I know that my students will be fascinated to compare this ‘reality’ with the reality television of teenaged parents they watch on the networks each week.

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