I am a huge Megan McCafferty fan. Like, ridiculous fangirl, over-the-top, absolutely love her. Jessica Darling is in my Top 10 Favorite Fictional Characters. I recommend Sloppy Firsts: A Jessica Darling Novel (the first in the series) to everyone I know. So when I saw that Megan was writing a dystopian YA novel, I was pretty much in heaven. One of my favorite authors writing in my favorite genre? I was guaranteed to love it! Then, when Megan offered me an ARC (thank you!), I jumped on it. When the package arrived, I was almost afraid to read it- what if I was disappointed? What if I had built it up too much? Could it be as good as I imagined it would be?
I was silly to worry. Bumped is fantastic and novel read, unlike anything else I have read. The publisher’s summary does a great job, so I will let it do its job:
When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.
Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.
Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.
When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.
I was immediately intrigued after reading the back copy a few months ago. For a long time, I have been fascinated by MTV’s Sixteen and Pregnant and Teen Mom. I feel like those two shows are a great way for parents and schools to begin talking to teens about safe sex and pregnancy. I know that Megan was partly inspired by her own similar idea, so Bumped doesn’t shy away from some tough issues. Needless to say, I love that Megan takes on the hot-button issues, injects some sarcasm and humor, and still manages to make her reader think, and I mean really think, about the issues at hand.
Bumped is not for the faint of heart. The reader needs to understand that the world in which Melody and Harmony exists glorifies teen pregnancy. McCafferty doesn’t shy away from sexual language, but every word and scene choice is carefully made. This is not a book that is meant to glorify and celebrate teen pregnancy. Yes, that is the world it is about. But that’s not what the book is actually about, if you understand what I mean. I think teens who read this will think about what these girls go through, and the choices they make. There was a fantastic article in the NY Times this weekend which focused on the use of MTV’s Teen Mom in the classroom. While many adults are horrified by the popularity of the show, the article points out just how many teens are learning from the experiences of the girls on the show and the conversations that result from watching the show. I think Bumped can and will do the same.
I’ve read a few reviews of Bumped and it seems they are mixed. But from what I see, many reviewers/readers don’t understand that McCafferty has her tongue planted firmly in cheek for the duration of the book. This is a satire, and a very effective one at that. Bumped is a critique. It’s a critique of a juxtaposition- the focus on purity in religion coupled with secular society’s focus on sex and sexuality. It satirizes the world we live in,pointing out the ridiculous path we are headed down. I loved it! I found myself putting the book down and thinking a lot as I read, and I was dying to talk to someone about it after reading. It’s that type of book.
In the foreword, McCafferty refers to Bumped as her first “young adult” novel. This is definitely a book that straddles the line between young adult and adult. It’s certainly not a book for middle school students. However, my more mature high school readers have rated it 5 stars on Goodreads. They inherently understood that it was a satire and appreciated how much it made them think. This may be a classic case of a book that is so perfect for YA readers that many adult gatekeepers think it is too much for them. McCafferty does a fantastic job and I highly recommend Bumped, though I would be sure you read it yourself before putting it in your classroom library.
*ARC courtesy of the author