Monday, February 20, 2012

Bumped (Megan McCafferty, 2011)

The Heroine: Melody Mayflower, a sixteen-year-old student living in 2036, pushed by her parents to become the most valuable commodity in future America: a perfectly well-rounded Suffragette. A virus has swept across the globe, rendering most adults over the age of eighteen completely infertile, and causing a roaring trade of teenage-pregnancies-for-hire. Melody has already landed a six-figure-deal to produce the perfect offspring and is just waiting for her perfect male match to be selected, when the shocking arrival of her twin sister shakes her world. Separated at birth, Harmony was adopted by the cult of The Church, groomed for marriage and already betrothed to a man she barely knows. Both sisters are trapped in lives that were chosen for them, and their meeting will cause them to question everything they thought they knew.

The Highs: Bumped presents an original, unique and fascinating look into dystopian America, without the doom and gloom that most novels set in the distant future seem to portray. The world that Melody and Harmony navigate through is full of new found slang, crazy new technology and a set of ideological values that challenges everything people in today's society believes is right. To be fair, I suppose if we really were confronted with the eminent downfall of the human race due to a infertility virus, I guess paying teenage girls to have sex with donors chosen for their physical, mental and emotional superiority wouldn't be so unrealistic. We are a capitalist society, after all.

Though Bumped may be targeted for the young adult generation, it deals with serious and thought-provoking issues such as discrimination, enslavement and the idea of a "superior" humanity. This novel brings up the problems that genetic screening and genetic engineering has caused current society to think about: who gets to decide what traits are better and worth more than others? Who has the right to play God? And what could the effects of a reduction in genetic diversity? It could be a slippery slope from paying girls to procreate to selecting only those who are genetically "superior" as appropriate for paid procreation, such as in Bumped, to even the terrifying reality of eugenics (the idea of improving the human population, often by discouraging those who are deemed "undesirable" genetically from procreating).

I really enjoyed the interactions of the characters, especially between Melody and Zen. Their adorable romance made me smile (and I'm really interested to see what they plan to do with that illegal condom!). I felt very bad for Harmony, who also frustrated me beyond belief – her naivete, though believable for someone raised in the bubble of The Church – drove me insane!

The Lows: In Bumped, many parents groom their children from a young age to become the beautiful, popular, skilled and intelligent teenagers that are valued by the marketplace – the perfect Surrogette, in other words. Whether for the money or the rewards the girls reap from providing a sterile couple with a child (such as college tuition, cars, even plastic surgery!), I just could not believe that any parent in their right mind would use their child for such purposes. Especially after going through so much effort to adopt a child of their own, it seems cold that they would then turn around and use them as a money-maker. Melody's parents even borrowed money against the equity her eggs could make them. It's disgusting and despicable and I hope humanity never falls to such lows as this.

Bumped is the first novel in a series and I was quite irritated to come the end of the book and find there was no conclusion. I guess I'm not much used to a cliff-hanger ending!

Final Thoughts: Cute and witty, the upbeat tempo to the book can't hide the deep and thought-provoking questions embedded in the plot.

Rating: Bumped earns six MiNet updates out of ten. 

The sequel, Thumped, will be released on April 24th, 2012

To buy Bumped on the Book Depository, click here
To connect with author Megan McCafferty, click here
Photo from here

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