Monday, April 25, 2011

Bumped review

April 2011

I downed this fast-paced, silly, apocalyptic novel in one sitting. The invented slang is easy enough to pick up and quickly immerses you into their zany world: pregging, bumping, fertilicious, FunBumps, reproaesthetic, masSEX. Set in the near-future, everyone over 18 has become infertile and teens are highly paid for their ability to procreate.

While it's true that the U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world, the number of teen pregnancies has been declining steadily since the 1950's, with record lows in the past decade. Is the pendulum starting to swing the other way? We're surrounded by gossip mags speculating on who may or may not be sporting a baby bump, and ratings of MTV's Teen Mom are sky-high. Is it really such a stretch to imagine that one day teen girls will wear fake pregnancy pads in order to fit in at school?

In Bumped, high-school student Melody is sitting pretty. With her excellent academic record, good health and great looks, she's scored an amazing contract with a couple who want her to carry a child for them. The only problem is that they've been a little too picky, trying to score the perfect young man to be the father, and Melody isn't pregnant yet, and it doesn't look like she will be anytime soon. In the meantime, Melody's long-lost twin sister Harmony shows up, much to Melody's hyperactive, talk a mile-a-minute fertility agent's dismay, who has crafted a sales pitch for Melody based on her uniqueness. Harmony is on the run from the conservative religious compound where she's been raised. Naturally, several instances of mistaken identity, with one twin being mistaken for the other occur and hijinks, as they say, ensue.

Melody's friends crassly recommend that she take on her good friend Zen as her "everythingbut" - meaning, a friend you fool around with and do everything but what could lead to pregnancy. I thought it was a little sad that Zen would never get to be a father, because of his height. He's not a little person... just short... but that is enough to make him unworthy to the wealthy elite who are paying for perfect babies. With yuppies paying so much for procreation and adoption services, and with such a heavy emphasis on eugenics, I was surprised that the teen couples were expected to "bump" in the bedroom, rather than being inseminated in a lab, where any birth defects or unpromising looking embryos could be weeded out at the outset.

I wondered why so many of the girls outside of the religious compound didn't want to keep their children. As Melody's best friend explains to her, she's having this child now, and selling the child to the highest bidder to secure a financial future for herself, so that one day, she'll be able to pay someone to do the same for her. However, if people knew that their only chance of becoming grandparents was to help support their daughters through a teen pregnancy, and raise the baby, surely they'd step-up and we'd see more multi-generational families, right? Melody's adoptive parents were pretty unbelievable. What kind of monsters mortgage and re-mortgage their house, go on lavish vacations and shopping sprees on the chance of whoring out their daughter?

While my heart went out to Melody, who despite all the pressure just doesn't feel ready to get pregnant, I found her sanctimonious Bible-spouting twin Harmony fairly unlikable, which was really shame. The chapters alternate between the two and I enjoyed the Harmony chapters much less.

With its bitingly satirical message, I would love to pair Megan McCafferty's Bumped with Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal and see how teens would react.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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