Last month, a pregnant teen named Gaby Rodriguez surprised her high school (and eventually made international headlines) when she revealed to onstage to her peers that she wasn’t actually pregnant. Her “pregnancy” had been part of her carefully planned senior project in which she pretended to be pregnant so that she could examine the fallout that pregnant teens faced from their peers and community. Though her methodology was questionable–even her boyfriend’s parents thought she was pregnant–her project served to underscore some of the hardships that pregnant teens face in today’s reality.
Fast-forward to the not-so-distant future described in Megan McCafferty’s Bumped.
The Human Progressive Sterility Virus has made most people over the age of eighteen infertile, leading to a major shift in attitudes toward teen pregnancy. Now, teen pregnancy is considered a civic duty. Girls can win college scholarships for producing the most babies before becoming infertile. Condoms are illegal. Having sex for pleasure is still frowned upon (of course), but mainly because babies are a hot commodity; if teens are smart about capitalizing on their fertility, they can make quite a bit of money going commercial and “bumping” with the partner of the paying couple’s choice to produce the most genetically desirable child possible.
This is the world we find the two main protagonists, Melody and Harmony, living in. The two are twins who were separated at birth. Harmony, raised in a deeply religious community who is opposed to the whole concept of commercial pregnancy, has left home to find Melody. She’s deeply disturbed to learn that her long-lost twin has one of the most in-demand wombs on the market, though she’s relieved when she finds out that Melody still hasn’t had any babies because she and her parents are holding out for the right (read: most lucrative) offer. Harmony is determined to convert her sister and bring her back to Goodside, while Melody just wants to get rid of her sister and move on with her life.
I do read and enjoy YA occasionally, but it’s not my typical fare. Yet when I first heard about Bumped, I was immediately intrigued by the concept. A world where teen pregnancy is encouraged? Fascinating. Once I actually delved into the book, however, I became a little more hesitant once religious aspects came to light (not really because of the inclusion of religion itself, but damn…Harmony lays it on thick). Basing a book on a religious girl’s determination to talk her sister out of a life of sin–and giving the protagonists cutesy names like Melody and Harmony to boot–definitely put the book on shaky ground for me. But the more I kept reading, the more I was able to get into the (kind of cheesy) plot. If you’re able to look past Harmony’s doe-eyed naiveté, it becomes a fun little book.
One thing that was harder to look past: the language.
When authors write dystopias, they often have to create a new vocabulary that reflects the changes of their dystopian future. As a Trekkie, I’m totally cool with that. What I’m not cool with is when authors overdo it (and overdo teen slang while they’re at it):
So after deleting himself from my life for weeks, he totally stalks me at the Mallplex just to let me know that he chauffeured a bunch of Cheerclones to one of their nasty masSEX parties. He’s crazy if he thinks he can make me, like, jealous or something…
I’m home now, venting to my friend Shoko on the MiVu. She’s totally couched, crunching her way through a bag of Folato Chips…now with 250 percent more folic acid.
Later in the book, I came across my “favorite” example of annoying teen language:
If we hesitate [in becoming pregnant]…our multicultural American society, a shining beacon of tolerance and empathy around the world, will die. I mean like, rilly rilly die.
I rilly rilly felt stabby after reading that.
Bumped builds up a lot of momentum, but the ending is disappointing and feels too messily open ended. When I looked on Goodreads, I saw that the book is listed on there as Bumped #1. If McCafferty is planning a series (and I’m assuming she is), then the ending is a little more understandable. Honestly though, I think stretching this particular story line into a series is pushing it. Bumped is based on an interesting concept that I do think teens will embrace, but I wish it had been executed a little better.
Bumped was released by Balzer + Bray on April 26, 2011, an imprint of HarperCollins.