Have I mentioned I love dystopias? Of course I have. They are my biggest guilty pleasure reads. The only problem is they’re all really dark and depressing and the world is a terrible place. They are not typically uplifting, and everyone you ever loved will die. Then I read Bumped.
Bumped, (and its sequel, Thumped) by Megan McCafferty, is a fun, lighthearted look at a dystopia in which teenage girls are the most important people in the world. HSPV has swept the world, and human beings are no longer able to bear children after turning eighteen. Because of this, our only hope for continuing the species is teenage girls. Teenage girls who are paid millions of dollars to “bump” based on their appearance, intelligence, and athleticism.
Basic plot recap: Melody and Harmony are twins who were separated at birth. Harmony was raised in the fundamentalist Christian “Goodside,” where girls are married and expected to procreate at the age of 13. Sex happens within marriage and with the intention of forming a family. Melody was raised in “Otherside,” or our world. She is the first teenage girl to score a 6-figure contract as a Reproductive Professional, or RePro, due to her parents’ careful structuring of her entire life to create the perfect girl. Only trouble is, the family she contracted with has not found the perfect sperm donor, so she’s also the last girl in school to get pregnant, a “virge on the verge”. (A virgin on the verge of no longer being reproductively viable.) When Harmony runs away from her impending marriage to Ephraim, intent on “saving” Melody from the sins of the flesh, Melody’s carefully planned and scheduled life implodes.
These books are short, and not particularly deep. You’re not going to bond with the characters like you would in, say, The Hunger Games. You will, however, root for them. ]And that’s because the message of these books is clear: Women, regardless of age, have the rights to their own bodies, and their own lives. They have the right to make decisions based on high quality information that they should be allowed to seek out.
This is not to say that teenage girls always make the best decisions. They’re young, they can be shallow, they do stupid things. Nowhere is that made clearer than in this two-part story. Even our heroines make bad decisions. Throughout the story are girls who are clearly immature and irresponsible, and McCafferty intentionally magnifies this by making her narrators, Harmony and Melody, take turns telling the story in exactly their own words, exactly how they would think them. It’s extremely limited first-person, the worldview of a teenage girl, but even so, the message to an adult is to teach them, inform them, and help them cope after they screw up. Hold their hand, but let them decide.
Themes in this book:
- Teen pregnancy
- Rape (Teens who are “bumping” take “Tocin,” a drug that helps them relax enough to do the deed.)
People who should read this book:
- You want a relaxing beach-read type book. (Each book took me about 90 minutes.)
- You have a teenage daughter, and want a book to read together. (This one would be great.)
- You enjoyed Megan McCafferty’s previous books. (And who didn’t?)
- You like dystopias, but don’t want to be emotionally wrung out at the end. (Nobody dies!)
- You are a person, interested in agency and the rules of personhood.
This book is fun. This is what the Capitol looked like from the inside, at its most excessive and fun. And GOD, the pop songs about pregnancy are hilarious. “You’re ready to pop/Due to drop” will make you giggle. Read it on a beach or by the lake, or on your couch on a lazy Saturday. Enjoy it, absorb it, and go on to something “serious,” but way less fun.