Harmony and Melody are sixteen year old twins, separated at birth and recently reunited. Harmony was brought up in the religious community of Goodside and views sex and procreation as something that is sacred and belongs only in marriage. Teenagers are not just encouraged to marry, it’s arranged. Melody is from Princeton, goes to a private school, was raised by two professors who are all about Melody being the best that she can be — including being the best possible surrogate! In a world where teens make and have the babies, the adults who want children are willing to pay top dollar.
Melody is about to start her first pregnancy; she’s just waiting for the couple who picked her to pick the perfect match for her. Harmony is convinced she needs to save Mel; it’s wrong to get pregnant for profit. So she leaves Goodside and her fiance, Ram, to save Mel. A case of mistaken identity changes both their futures, and make both girls rethink what they’ve been raised to believe.
The Good: Bumped is a hilarious book, building on some of today’s obsessions: MTV’s 16 & Pregnant, celebrity bump watches , and aggressive marketing to teens. Seriously, when I see the fuss and reports on a celebrity “bump”, her clothes, her tummy, the quick ways to lose weight post baby, I think it already is over the top. McCafferty takes that increases it a thousand fold and pushes it over the mountain. The result is a world that carries T-shirts for teens that say “born to breed” and “my extra thirty is oh so flirty” and outlaws condoms.
Melody’s world is one where both teen boys and girls, are encouraged and rewarded to get pregnant. Not to be parents; drugs and societal pressure help prevent the teens from bonding with the “delivery.” I love this world-building; some of it is deliciously “oh come on” over the top and other parts are “oh…I can see that happening.” Melody’s generation is the first facing these issues, and how they have and have not reacted to the world changes because of the virus. Bumped covers a short timeframe, just a handful of days, with a narrow point of view, that of Melody and Harmony. I wondered, what do the adults think? What will this world be like in ten years, twenty, thirty? What about the world outside Mel’s and Harmony’s extremes? It’s a sign of a good book, and good world-building, that I think about the society outside the four corners of the book. These things I wonder about aren’t pertinent to Bumped, so of course, they are not included because they don’t matter to Mel or Harmony.
Mel’s world is one where teen pregnancies are accepted and encouraged, with the “delivery” going off to live with adoptive parents. A pregnancy is either “amateur,” unplanned, with post-delivery auctions, or “pro,” carefully arranged pregnancies with contracts that can include college tuition and cars. Because infertility occurs in both sexes, boys, too, can go pro. A “pro” is someone with an appealing nature and nurture package: good looks, the right DNA, good in school, good in sports. Too short, too tall, too fat, not the right shade of color? No chance to go pro, but some couple may take the baby at a post-delivery auction. Jondoe is an example of what it means to be a male pro: he is flown around the world for top pregnancy arrangements and has endorsement deals. His face is everywhere. While this is Mel’s and Harmony’s story, McCafferty does give hints to a broader world where there are different reactions to pregnancies: families arranging for younger teens to act as surrogates for family members, religions that reacted differently than Goodside, and public schools that encourage girls to keep their “deliveries”.
Because this book takes place in Melody’s world, we see mainly her school and members and friends. As for her parents, well, here is a quote from them: “A free society cannot force girls to have children, but a free market can richly reward those that do.” The reader realizes before Melody that Melody is not so much her adoptive parents’ child but rather their economic investment. Her parents realized early on that teens would have value because of their fertility, and invested and acted accordingly. I wondered if they ever saw Melody as their child.
Bumped takes place over just a few days; the sequel is Thumped.