Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

young adult, teen pregnancy, teen reads, teen fiction, young adult novel, young adult book, book, book reviewCONTENT WARNING: While categorized as a YA title, this book and its review may not be suitable for children of all ages. Parental discretion is recommended.
A virus has swept across the world, rendering anyone over 18 years of age completely sterile. The only people unaffected by the virus are teenagers, and people are willing to pay big bucks for a beautiful baby. Melody Mayflower just so happens to be one of the lucky girls getting a full ride to college, a car, and a tummy tuck from a couple who wants her offspring. All she has to do is bump with an equally perfect candidate, carry the "pregg" for nine months, and then hand it over to its rightful parents. Melody is the perfect candidate. She has straight A's, beautiful features, and a glowing track record of philanthropy and leadership--just the way her parents planned it. The only thing getting in Melody's way is the fact that she's not entirely sure that she wants to get bumped. Well, that and Harmony.

Harmony is Melody's identical twin. They were formed from the same egg, so everything about that is awful news for Melody who is marketing herself to wannabe parents as the ultimate, unique passage. How can she carry on with that plug if she's not so one-of-a-kind after all? Worse, Harmony and Melody don't exactly see eye-to-eye. Harmony is determined to put the "fun" back in fundamentalism. Separated from Melody at birth, she grew up in The Church, where girls get married at thirteen and they definitely aren't professional procreators. But, just like Melody, Harmony isn't quite so sure that the life she has is the one she wants to live. She's not sure about getting married at such a young age, she's not sure that The Church is right about everything, and she's not sure she wants to go back at all.

If A Modest Proposal seduced The Handmaid's Tale, the adolescent fruit of that union would be Bumped. Megan McCafferty weaves a remarkable tale, flawlessly building the world in which Melody and Harmony live. She sprinkles Melody's language with slang like "pregg" and "reproaesthetical" and "fertilicious." These words have the most rewardingly bubblegum feel as you read them, which strikes a sharp contrast with the modern, mainstream teen discussions on purity and abstinence.

Setting up Melody and Harmony as two identical twins, diametrically opposed, creates a world where the conversation of how much teens need to know about their reproduction is able to happen constantly. Melody took classes, read everything, and is even a peer birth coach for her already bumped classmates. She is inundated with pop songs about how much fun it is to have babies. Harmony, on the other hand, comes from a religious community so strict that when she--at thirteen and already engaged--asks what is going to happen on her wedding night, the church council decides she's not ready. Her fiance ends up marrying another girl the very next day. One who didn't ask as many questions.

This book is funny, charming, and thoughtful. It challenges the concept of women and girls as property, as a womb, but it does so in a light-hearted, YA-friendly way. It also doesn't come down on either side of these issues as right. Instead, it just provides a more dramatic background from which people can examine them.

I wouldn't say this is a middle grades book. The topics of pregnancy, as befits the world the characters live in, are discussed openly and without real context. I'd be wary of giving this novel even to freshmen students. It's a novel that requires a lot of conversation around the topics.

© 2017, Copyright Miriam Braud.  

While I try to post content warnings if I, personally, identify anything that I think is not appropriate for my students who range in age from 11-14, I recommend that all content is perused by parents to ensure that the individual and unique values of each family is upheld.

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