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Bumped (Bumped, #1)

Bumped (Bumped, #1) - Megan McCafferty I suspect that for some, the amount of enjoyment and/or engagement they experience while reading Bumped will be directly proportional to the manner in which they approach it. It’s just a theory, and I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I do think that an analysis of Bumped needs to take into account the angle a person has chosen to read it from. Taken at face value, there is content and style to the story that some readers may find problematic or even objectionable. Read as a satirical take on current trends, though, Bumped presents some intelligent, relevant commentary on social and economic pressure and the extent to which it shapes our views. I’m not sure that I would say I “liked” this book, in the sense in which I would normally apply the word. But I was quite fascinated by the themes and interested to see how they would be developed. In truth, at times it was an uncomfortable book for me to read. But perhaps that was entirely the point. Bumped takes place in a not too distant future, where a virus has caused the onset of infertility between the ages of eighteen and twenty, and teen pregnancy has become a matter of profit and prestige. “Bumping” and “pregging” are governed by contractual obligations, managed by agents, watched avidly through the hyperactive lens of extreme social media. High school is divided not so much on the lines of the “popular” and the “unpopular”, but the amateurs and the pros. The girls with six figures riding on their six-month baby bellies, and the girls hoping to profit on an un-contracted knock up. The guys who are stud material, and the guys who don’t make the “reproaesthetical” grade. For the most part, I bought this as a premise. McCafferty’s world has its roots in our own, amplifying the present reality into an exaggerated future possibility. I could get behind this concept more than I could, say, love is a disease! Every female dies at 20! I mean no disrespect to those books, but by comparison, I found this vision of the future more plausible. Or least, I didn’t have to suspend as much belief. This is ’Sixteen and Pregnant’, peer pressure, social media, and economic upheaval dialled up to eleven and heavily distorted. Hand in hand with this setting is quite a lot of stylised slang and terminology. Bumped is thick with future-speak and technological references – it took me ages to work out what all the winking and blinking was about (although maybe I’m just exceptionally slow on the uptake) – and this can be somewhat distracting, as there is not a lot of accompanying explanation. Given its prevalence, you either won’t mind the language and will adjust quickly, or it will drive you absolutely crazy. Aside from this, I did enjoy the writing. The chapters are quite short and while occasionally this caused some blurring between the characters for me, I did like the flow and rhythm to the book. Bumped is told through the dual perspectives of identical twins Melody and Harmony, separated at birth and unexpectedly re-united at sixteen. Melody is a trailblazer of the pregging for profit trend, holding a lucrative conception contract and awaiting the selection of a suitable partner to “bump” with, under pressure to seal the deal before her days of fertility are up and she enters her “obsolesence”. Harmony has been raised in a fundamentalist community, and believes it is her duty to convince her long-lost sister of the sinfulness of her choice to procreate outside of marriage. The way both Melody and Harmony are presented may not be easy for all to stomach. Taking a step back from these characters, though, there are more similarities than differences. I think it may be a little short sighted to see this merely as the “religious” and “secular” going head to head. Let’s face it, very few would step out of that ring not nursing some wounds of offence, regardless of which side their personal convictions are more closely aligned with. To me this was more a story about two girls who are each confined by the (wildly opposing) moral and social strictures governing their societies. Two girls undergoing a shift in perception, both of themselves and each other. Learning to recognise the influences and demands on their lives, and whether to choose to embrace or reject these. This is not to say that I either agree or disagree with the portrayals of the characters, teen pregnancy or religion in this book, as I found parts in both narratives to be problematic at times. However, I could appreciate that a large part of this story is about gaining insight into other viewpoints, and becoming self-determined in the face of incredible pressure from peers, parents and society. To vilify one side of the world McCafferty presents would be to overlook the fact that both tie the value of women to their ability to conceive and bear children, and both inflict some extreme levels of pressure on young people to conform to the accepted 'procreative-norm'. Interestingly, there is not a lot of detail around whether there are people who don’t fall within either the “Goodside” or “Otherside” communities, as they are referred to by Harmony. These are two narrow extremes, and I can’t help but speculate that there must be others who would not claim affinity with either set of beliefs, just as there are today. This is a polarising book in many ways. The writing, style, subject matter, and the depiction of the characters will court strong opinions either way – not all will find it accessible. There are some scenes that are (deliberately, I suspect) incredibly skin crawly – like young girls trying on fake baby bumps, the rampant sexualisation and a pregnant pre-teen. While the darker side of the world is gradually presented, this is quite subtle and some readers may not care for the deceptively light tone and handling of such subject matter. In their In this way though, it’s a bold book, not flinching from controversy, but being quite upfront and unabashed about its content. You’ll note beside the title the: “#1”. I really do wish this was a standalone book. I could have done without the dun-dun-dun (that’s my attempt at ominous music) final page, and still been happy with the somewhat untied ends of the story. In fact, the rather ambiguous resolution would have lent the climax quite a powerful impact, and realistic tone. However, there’s a clear segue into a further instalment of Melody and Harmony’s stories. But frankly, I do think that if anyone is to handle this adroitly and write a great follow up, Megan McCafferty is more than up to the task.