This is a review of the 2011 book 'Bumped' by Megan McCafferty. It is a Young Adult (YA) fiction book that I swapped on the readitswapit website. Whilst it is intended as a YA book, there are lots of messages in the book that we can all learn from and I am sure I was reading it on a higher level than intended!
A brief storyline
The year is 2040 and only teenage girls are fertile and can get pregnant. The pretty and successful girls are sought after as surrogates because their genes are viewed as a valuable and the smart ones hold out for a contract with a rich couple. Things like university fees, cars and lots of dollars are a typical package. Once the girls hit around 18 their fertility leaves them due to a virus which has hit the planet and they themselves will turn to the teenagers in time when they want to start a family.
Melody is the main character and she has just found out she has an identical twin with whom she was separated from birth called Harmony. Melody's parents are forward thinking and have turned her into an expensive brand on the 'pregging' front. She is academic, sporty, musical and bright and pretty. Her identical twin Melody was brought up on the churchy side of town 'Goodside' and thinks the idea of selling your baby is horrific. The church elders have matched her with a man and she is modest and covered up. The only difference between the two is that Harmony has a smattering of freckles from working outside on the farm. Harmony sets off to 'otherside' to save her sister and bring her back to Goodside. Melody has a best friend who is also a boy, Zen. He is a technical whizz and useful to know in emergency. Zen's only problem is that he isn't tall enough so no one really wants to 'bump' with him. Zen and Melody are both virgins on the verge.
Obviously this book is set in the future and the technology is very futuristic. Everyone accesses an internet type place using contact lenses and earbuds, blinking to click through the pages! In the book they do switch off occasionally to sleep and study but it really is the world gone mad as real time video plays of all the events happening that are deemed newsworthy. Friends communicate through this MiNet and access each other's profiles, knowing everything about each other before they meet.
The crux of the matter
Melody has finally been matched with the top teen heart throb in America who advertises a legal recreational drug that helps teens relax on social scenes (and disinhibits them where sex is concerned). He only accepts the best contracts and visits the girl to deliver his sperm (yes they have sex!) on time and in a timely manner, having a great success rate with getting a 'bump' first time. Teenage girls are so proud to sport their bumps they can't wait to get a big belly on them. Pre teenies are so excited about their fertility to come they can even buy 'fun bumps' to wear whilst they wait. Seriously weird.
In the book, there are all sorts of new terminology to get your head around. Pregging (getting pregnant), bumping (sex), masSEX parties (orgies), being Sperminated (obvious) and food including gogo bars, coke 99 (much better than the old formula), crisps with extra folic acid in them and other artificially improved food. You soon get used to the language so it's not such a problem.
At school, the children are given explicit sex education lessons, with a 15 minute slot dedicated to what happens if it (birthing) goes wrong But Totally Don't Worry Because it Won't Like Happen. Whilst technology has improved and the birth rates are high, there is still risk attached to birthing.
A lot of the issues covered in this book are very adult yet they sadly reflect the way of today's world in a way. The only difference is that in the book they are encouraged by their parents to get pregnant multiple times, sell their babies so the parents can reap the reward financially. No proud grandparents there then! I don't think you'd really want a young teen to read this book as it is shocking and frank (but not explicit) you wouldn't want them to get ideas in their head though.
In the book there is a scene where an 11 year old is giving birth and Melody sadly reflects on how her body is not physically able to give birth so she will be having a c section whether she likes it or not. The girl doesn't seem to care, she is enjoying a high level of fame being so young and is on for a world record of births before she reaches infertility (the record is 11 so far).
A bit like ...
The book really reminds me of the girls in Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale where the fertile women are used as birthing mothers but they don't really have any rights. In both books a new language is created. On the goodside of town, the girls there are treated a bit like the ones I have read about who belong to the FLDS (Federation of the Latter Day Saints - Polygamists) dressing modestly and being in a sisterhood, turning to the church elders for matches of marriage. They believe they are better off there but really they are brainwashed into their lives.
I loved this book and the concept was original and really well worked out. It kept me guessing as to which twin would do what and it was all set over such a small time period (48 hours). Melody and Zen's relationship is innocent and sweet and they both seem to want an 'everythingbut' relationship which is difficult in a world where condoms are illegal.
The book really did raise a few issues in my mind like what if this really happened would our ethics change and would it be acceptable to expect teens to take on the role of populating the earth? In the book 70% of schoolgirls were willing to do so and enjoyed their important status.
I realise this book will not be for everyone, in fact it has already received bad review marks but I have to say it really did it for me as I am a bit of a secret science fiction fan at times. It stretched my imagination, made me compare with other literature and it really made a change to read something so different.
The year is 2040 and a virus has made everyone over the age of Eighteen infertile. Couples wanting children are forced to employ surrogates, teen girls who will carry their baby. The result is competition to get the best surrogate on offer, with lots of money exchanging hands for the right girl.
Sixteen year old Melody has been preparing to be become a surrogate for years and is about to make a record breaking deal with her perfect DNA. But just before it's complete a twin sister, Harmony, turns up at the door and throws Melody's life in chaos. Having been brought up in her bubblegum world where pregnancy is fashionable and glorified, Harmony's simple and godly existence is a complete contrast to her own. Harmony is certain her purpose is to protect Melody from what she believes is the ultimate sin, only Melody may just be starting to wonder this for herself...
Bumped was one of my highly anticipated books this year. I'd tried desperately to get a copy via Netgalley early on, to no avail so was more than ecstatic when it turned up unannounced through my mailbox several weeks ago. So it is with regret I say I didn't like it.
Didn't like it/didn't get it...it was a bit of both. I honestly thought the idea was such a fantastic one that I felt I was missing something by reacting so strongly against it. Maybe I am, the book has very mixed reviews so clearly it's a marmite one. The problems I found with it was believability. I just could not believe that in twenty years in our future we'd be willing to glorify kids as young as 13/14 having sex. I could believe in the idea that only under eighteens could carry children, but I didn't really get why we (society) would have lost all morals and would pit young kids against each other as they fought to win the best surrogate deal. And also, surely with the amount of technology that's present in this world it could be done without the actual act of sex. It honestly made my stomach heave.
I could see what the author was trying to say about our culture (the sexualisation of children, commercialising everything and making celebrities out of nothing and dropping them in the mud when they don't live up to expectation) but sadly I just don't think that message came across in the brash, in your face style it was written. I guess it was a satirical approach that just went right over my head. I cringed my way through this book, at times feeling physically sick...but not in a thought provoking way, more in sheer disgust. I also really hated the new slang littered throughout this book, which was annoying to say the least. I wanted to vomit every time I read the word Fertilicious (used by or to describe girls, as opposed to gorgeous/awesome/beautiful for example)
I did like the contrast between Harmony's old-fashioned devout church puritan upbringing and Melody's bubblegum world, where pregnant teens are the new celebrities and reality TV stars. And I also thought some of the futuristic inventions were pretty clever, such as the internet contact lenses...now I can believe in a population who's eye's flicker gormlessly as they can't pull themselves away from the virtual world. I'm kind of like that now as I crash into stuff with my head gazing down at my phone!
Unfortunately I can't recommend this book, it just made me feel too uncomfortable but for all the wrong reasons. I felt the author had so much fun creating this world, she forgot to give it a sinister edge and the result is a book that appears to make teen pregnancy attractive rather than what I guess was the original goal. For me, it was just too weird. If you think you may be offended in anyway by the topics I've mentioned then I scream AVOID to you. Personally I'd do my best to make sure this book passed my daughter by if she were a teen and I certainly don't think it should sit on the Young Adult shelf. Usually I don't feel so strongly and am very much against censorship, but this book made my skin crawl. If it was shock factor the author was going for, it worked. Only I assume not in the way they intended.
Published by Random House Children's Books Aug 2011
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review