YA Friday: Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Friday, April 22, 2011

Title: Bumped
Author: Megan McCafferty
Genre: YA, dystopian
Publisher: Balzer & Bray, 2011
Source: Received from NetGalley

Bumped explores a world where over 75% of the human race is infertile after the age of eighteen thanks to a progressive virus. As a result, teen pregnancy is not an epidemic that needs to be stopped but a condition that is embraced and rewarded. Melody Mayflower is a genetically desirable teen waiting to sign her first "bumping" contract in order to provide a couple with a child. However, her plans are shaken when her twin sister, Harmony, appears from the doctrine-heavy community of Goodside, where they preach the wickedness of bumping for profit and encourage families and marriage. Harmony and Melody's opinions and goals are very different, but as they get to know each other, they start to question the societies in which they were raised.

This was an interesting read for me. I went into it knowing that I had the potential to be offended due to the scandalous subject material. However, what was offensive to me was not so much the cavalier attitude about sex - although that was present to a degree - but the way Christians (described in the book as "having God") were presented. They were presented as ignorant, blindly following their beliefs and forcing individuals into loveless marriages. This is a satire, and I know that both the abstaining viewpoint of Goodside and the let-it-all-go-wild viewpoint of the bumpers-for-profit were brought to extremes to illustrate a point. However, I didn't love the underlying message that people who wait until marriage also walk around in floor-length dresses wearing veils and gloves so their skin isn't sullied by the unclean eyes of unbelievers.

End of rant. Other than the fact that I felt like Christians were being mocked a little in this book, a few other issues bothered me. First of all, I felt that the characters were a bit shallow. While both Melody and Harmony undergo personal changes that lead them to question their respective lifestyles, these changes seemed to be superficial. They begin questioning the institutions after sudden, dramatic events in their lives, and it seemed unrealistic to me that they would have such drastic alterations in their belief systems, especially Melody. While Melody is a little nervous about the idea of bumping, she seems pretty convinced of the idea - light-heartedly jealous of "Ventura Vida's adorable six-month bump," excited about the prospect of being admired and rich. Harmony is more introspective throughout the book, but the change in her seems to come mainly from physical attraction to a man. Is that really a message we want to send to teens - change your standards so you can get a guy?

I also didn't love the ending. I know that trilogies end on a cliffhanger so we will all be desperate to buy the next book. I know it's good salesmanship and profitable. But everything happened so quickly in the end of the book that it seemed too obvious that McCafferty was trying to ensnare our attention for the next book. Everything is left hanging, and everything happens too quickly to process. I know, I know, I like my loose ends tied up. I know I can't expect that in the first book of a trilogy. But if at least a few of the ends were tied, the ending would have been less jarring and the book would have felt more complete.

Now that I've aired my grievances, there were also a few aspects of the book that I enjoyed. The plot was entertaining and I wanted to keep going to find out what happened to the twins. I also think the idea to turn on the head a generally accepted position of society - that teenage pregnancy, regardless of what you may think of premarital sexual activity, is not a good idea - was brave and interesting. I found the dichotomy between Goodside and the rest of the world to be interesting, and a good example of the proverb to be moderate in all things. Encouraging unbridled sexual activity to ensure the continuation of the human race resulted in many problems, especially exploitation. Rigidly controlling lives by enforcing stringent rules also resulted in a decreased quality of life and seclusion for many women. McCafferty does a good job of bringing both these situations to light. She doesn't present either group's ideas as truly viable - these are both corrupt societies. They are opposites of each other, so doing a one-eighty turn in philosophy isn't going to solve the problem.

So overall? This isn't an awful book. I was engaged. I wanted to know what happened next. I have a favorite quote. "Harmony really puts the fun in fundamentalism." A little cheesy, but it made me LOL - literally. Ha. But it did lack depth. It was written at the level of young YA readers, but the content was definitely adult. I also felt it was offensive toward Christians at times. I probably won't recommend this book to anyone, but I did feel that I gained some insight from it.

2 stars


  1. I really enjoyed this book personally, but I also didn't think it was making fun of Christians. I think it was looking more at the idea of cults. The "goodside" Christians were doing a lot of things that you wouldn't see in normal Christianity - forcing kids to marry at age 13, not letting their members read the doctrines so that the leaders would stay in knowledgeable and in charge, etc. It reminded me a lot of some of the religious cults we've seen crop up in places. Plus you get a glimpse of a religious family that doesn't belong to a cult, and I liked them a lot and felt that they were presented in a good light, adapting to the way the world has changed but not advocating blind obedience of church leaders the way they did in "goodside."

  2. While I'm no longer eager to read this book (I've seen a lot of lukewarm reviews), I think I still want to try it out sometime soon. Like you said, it's an interesting concept. Kind of like Children of Men by PD James (and movie starring Clive Owen - YUM.), but not so fatalistic.

    Also, I think that in almost all the dystopian fiction I've read, religion comes up and it's usually not in a good light. I think that it comes with the territory - in catastrophes, crises, and possible humanity-ending situations, people kind of panic and go to extremes. Unfortunately, there are two super-easy ways to display this in dystopian novels - the most often used is religion-on-overkill. The second is usually people becoming completely immoral - looting, kidnapping, raping, gangs, etc. While I don't have high hopes, I'm now very curious to read this book and see exactly how the author approaches the religious radicals thing.

    Bummer that you didn't like it :(

  3. @Amanda - You are right, the book did sound more like a cult than normal organized religion. I think it just bothered me because even the "normal" "God-having people" just seemed slightly obnoxious. Then again, all the pro-bumping people all seemed slightly obnoxious too. Who knows - I think the book just wasn't for me.

    @Sarah - That is a good point about organized religion in dystopian fiction. In communism which is kind of like real-life dystopia, they eliminated religion completely. I think this book was still an interesting read but not the best book for me, I guess.

  4. I just started reading this one a couple days ago. I absolutely love it so far. I really enjoy McCafferty's witty writing and I think that she leaves a lot to be explores and decided on by the reader. I get where you became a little disenchanted with the book, but I think that honestly that is mostly just a characteristic of distopian/satirical writing: you have to go to extremes and make some people look bad. That's kind of why I enjoy the genres so much.

  5. @Jennifer - I definitely enjoy dystopian literature but I've never been a fan of satire so that is probably another reason why this wasn't a winner for me.


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