Rummanah Aasi
  Teenage sexuality has always been a hot issue. We seem to be in two extremes on the issue with abstinence only classes, chastity balls, and the hugely popular television shows such as Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant. Books on sex education are frequently banned and/or challenged in our libraries. Programs such as planned parenthood have also recently came under attack by the government. What would happen if in the distant future where only teens can give birth? What if unprotected sex is a societal obligation? What would that world look like and are we really that far from this fictional world? These are the questions that floated in my mind as I read Megan McCafferty's young adult dystopian novel called Bumped. Thanks to Netgalley for giving me an advanced reader's copy of the book in order for me to do an honest review.

Description (from Amazon): 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.

Review: Bumped is the most disturbing book I've read so far this year. I can't tell you how many times my jaw dropped while reading this book. What terrified me isn't the writing of the book, which I thought was brilliant and innovative, but rather the world that McCafferty created isn't too far from where we are now. It is a biological fact for women that after a certain age, the probability of having a baby is slim. In McCafferty's world, everyone under age 18 is either a liability or a commodity. Years ago people were infected by HPSV, the Human Progessive Sterility Virus, where people were infected are sterile by the time their bodies reach full maturity. HIV and STDs doesn't exist in Bumped. So the only way the population can grow is for teen girls to become pregnant. Consequently, the lives of these girls are bombarded by parents who train their daughters to be the best candidate and by couples who lure them with luxurious offers in order to get the baby.
   Bumped is told through the first-person perspectives of identical twins Melody Mayflower and Harmony Smith, who were once separated at birth and adopted by two extremely different families.  Melody has been raised as a prized commodity. She is a high-achieving student, a terrific soccer player, and loves to play the guitar. Her exceptional genes and traits make her a high ranked candidate on the fertility circuit.  Unlike Melody, Harmony was placed with a devout, religious couple who brought up to live by God's words. Where Melody tries to stay afloat and maintain her brand, Harmony is on a religious mission to save her sister.  While both characters seem one dimensional at first, they begin to grow and take form, which is very similar to the pattern of a woman's pregnancy. Each section of the story introduces characters, establishes the world, and adds layers of introspection and epiphanies. The story flows nicely and is well paced despite the constant flipping back and forth perspectives. Through each chapter, the girls become alive as we step inside their shoes, experience their emotions, insecurities, and confusions.The last section of the book, cleverly named rebirth, gives us a completely different Melody and Harmony from we first met them. Adding a voice of reason and clarity is Melody's best friend Zen, who seems to cut through the superficiality plaguing their world and really sees what their world really is. His is incredibly funny and warm, which gives us hope that their society is capable of change.  
   Reading Bumped was a surreal experience. I was horrified and shocked, but I could not stop reading nor talking about it to my friends. While free love is covered in some dystopian novels, I couldn't believe how the adults in this book behaved. It is not so much the teens, but rather the adults who are so focused on not only getting a child, but on having the perfect child birthed for them and rearing their sons and daughters to be the ideal candidate. Forget about genetic engineering which takes too long and not deemed "natural", teens are sought with specific traits and an entire industry is created to fulfill this request. Contraceptions and 'making love' are illegal. The products that stores thrust at these girls to promote pregnancy such as garments that show how you would look if you are 6 months pregnant and pills that leave Viagra in the dust, are overwhelming and begin when teens barely hit puberty. Agents scout girls and sign them up in matter of seconds. Girls are under constant pressure to keep themselves marketable until their optimal sex partner has all the specifications their paying couple desires. Though Melody was geared to actively participate in this baby making industry, Harmony faces the similar situation but it under the guise of a religious obligation. Whether controlled by religion or helping the population to grow, teen girls are raised as a profit regardless of their upbringing, where, essentially, legalized prostitution has become a way of life. The only people who do not seem to have ownership of their body or have any say in the matter of the child they conceived are the girls themselves. Those who refuse to take an active role in the industry are ostracized and basically commit social suicide.  
   Women who are treated as objects and solely used for procreation isn't new in the dystopian genre. What frightened me the most about Bumped is how familiar the world is: everything is highly sexualized from clothing to music to how everyone talks. McCafferety doesn't ease you into her world, but you rather plunge in from the beginning with little understanding of what the characters are talking about. You do quickly float and find your rhythm as details are uncovered. I found myself at home with Melody's chapter because she immediately comes across as an ordinary teen girl who complains about her friends, school, and likes to shop at the mall. She just so happens to talk as if she just landed the best deal of a full ride scholarship to college, a brand new BMW, and an all paid for cosmetic surgery and all she has to do is just sleep with a guy and pop out a baby. This is exactly how the girls in Bumped talk. The book's humor is deliciously dark and satirical. There are many times where I found myself laughing because, really that's all that you can do in this situation, and then immediately feel guilty for laughing-mainly because the subject matter isn't really funny once it settles in your brain and you slowly begin to process it.
   I thought about Bumped long after I finished reading it. I talked about the book to several people, who are now anxiously awaiting it's April 26th release date. I will say, however, that the book is not for everyone. It might be one that people either love or hate, but it is undeniable that it will be talked about for a very long time. There are several themes that will spark great discussion such as the media's hypocritical viewpoints of
sexuality, in particular teen sexuality, pregnancy, the increasingly blurry lines of where reality and celebrity meet and end. It also touches upon our crazy need to design the perfect person. All of these issues are current in our society, which is what makes a book like Bumped so important because it deliberately makes us feel uncomfortable and forces us to think about things that we would like to push in the back our minds.
  Bumped is a fascinating, page turning, and head spinning novel and by far my favorite book in the Cornucopia of Dystopia blog tour. The ending leaves the door wide open for the next installment of this story, which I believe is in the works, and I can't wait to read it. 

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: Since this is book centers around sexuality, there is strong sexual content. There are sexual innuendos and euphemisms throughout the novel. There is also allusions to sex and some language. Recommended for high school students and adults only.

If you like this book try: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Anthem by Ann Ryand, The Handsmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, or Wither by Stephanie DeStefano
2 Responses
  1. This sounds like a book I'll want to read immediately. Thanks for a thorough, well-written review. I'm hooked, and now can't wait to read Bumped!

  2. We Heart YA Says:

    Very nice review. I was curious what your thoughts would be as a teacher and librarian. You explain them well.

    I'm still not sure if this book is one *I* want to read, but your review is a lot more grounded than some of the others I've read, so thank you!

    Btw, we are four YA writers and avid readers, and we just started a new blog to talk about YA literature. It's not so much book reviews as talking about different issues, trends, etc. Thoughtful reviewers like you are exactly the kind of people we want to connect with, so we'd love to see you there!

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails