Vinaya's Reviews > Bumped

Bumped by Megan McCafferty
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's review
Feb 27, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: arc-galley, books-i-loved, favorites, ya-fantasy, hmm-that-was-interesting
Read on February 26, 2011

Wha-wha-WHAAT? What just happened there?

Okay, let’s start at the beginning. Bumped is a ‘dystopian’ novel set in 2035 where a virus has wiped out the ability of every person over the age of eighteen to reproduce. (Why eighteen? How eighteen? Does the virus come built-in with an age-o-meter that tells it when to strike?) The population is rapidly declining, leaving only one section of the planet capable of procreating. The teenagers. At the point at which this novel starts, it is already established that there is a flourishing trade in surrogacy, it being accepted practice for teenagers to have sex with the intent of producing a baby that is then given away for adoption to older couples who can no longer reproduce.

The surrogate mothers are divided into two groups, the Reproductive Professionals (RePros) who are stringently scrutinized on a genetic level to ensure their acceptability, and then paired with another hand-picked sperm donor. The babies of the RePros are optioned for large sums of money even before the reproductive process begins. The other group are the amateurs, people who pick their own partners, and either donate their babies pro bono or put them up for adoption in a public auction. The entire process is facilitated by the administration of a drug called Tocin that acts as an aphrodisiac during intercourse, and later, during pregnancy, serves to sever the chemical bond between mother and child in order to ensure that the mother does not become ‘broody’ and insist on keeping her child.

Megan McCafferty’s world building is detailed and convincing, for the most part. She establishes a whole new society with new laws, new regulations, new mores and even a new slanguage, all revolving around this new world where the only hope for the advancement of the planet are the youth – literally. This is a world where sex is a business for teenagers, where ‘lovemaking’ is looked down upon and peer pressure makes questioning the system an impossibility.

And on the other hand are the ‘trubies’, the members of the Church who segregate themselves in communal settlements and are forbidden to leave the settlements except for missionary or agricultural purposes. The segregation works to the benefit of Church members, in that the incidence of the virus is significantly lower amongst them. However, the Church society is rigidly moral and fanatically religious, adhering to an outmoded code of behavior that condemns pre-marital sex, instigates marriages at age thirteen or so, and abhors technology. *cough Amish cough*

I hope you read the above bits of the review before you get started on the book, because McCafferty goes to the other extreme from infodump-writing. She’s stingy with information, and sly about it. She slips vital bits of information into random conversations all over the book, so blink and you’ll miss it. This also makes the first fourth of the book heavy going, until you get a firmer grasp on the world building and slanguage.

I can confidently say that no book in recent times has made me think as much as Bumped. With The Hunger Games, the dystopia was cut in stone, unquestionable; the lessons it imparted were equally clear and unmistakable. But with Bumped, it’s a different situation altogether. Firstly, I had to look up the definition of ‘dystopia’, because the tone of the book did not match my idea of what a dystopian society should sound like. And indeed, in the strictest sense of the word, Bumped is not a dystopia. According to the dictionary, dystopia is ‘a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease and overcrowding. Wikipedia goes on to inform me that a dystopian society “usually features different kinds of repressive social control systems, a lack or total absence of individual freedoms and expressions and constant states of warfare or violence.”

On the face of it, you can’t call the society in Bumped dystopian. There is no more squalor, human misery or overcrowding than there is in any normal society. Not much disease, either, except for the biggie, the Human Progressive Sterility Virus. There are no overt repressive social control systems, no lack of individual freedoms and no warfare or violence. There is no mandate that says all teenagers MUST get pregnant.

BUT, and this is a big but, there is an underlying nuance of oppression, of enforced choices. Nobody made a law saying everybody must get pregnant, but the society has restructured itself in such a way that people NOT making the attempt to create babies are looked upon as both unpatriotic and non-productive members of society. Teenagers, one of the easiest age groups to influence, have been brainwashed into thinking that it is just and right for them to become baby-making machines; to sell off their virginity, their womb and their right to a childhood in exchange for a secure future and prestige amongst their peers. Babies are bought and sold like goods in a market, and nobody questions this outrage; it is simply accepted.

Into this scenario come Harmony and Melody, monozygotic (identical) twins separated at birth. Both have been raised in completely different environments that have no meeting point. Harmony has been given to a Church family to be raised, and is, at first glance, a devout Church member with a loving family, full of missionary zeal. Melody has been raised in a life of privilege, by educated, affluent parents in a suburb of Princeton. She’s the ideal RePro, with a contract amounting to six figures, and the perfect face, body and mind to ensure an enviable genetic heritage for her child.
But slowly, the surface layer peels off to reveal the deeper truths both sisters are hiding. Despite being from vastly differing different backgrounds, both twins have a questioning bent of mind, in societies where questioning the norm is not encouraged. They are both clinging to the ideas and beliefs they have been brought up with, in the hopes of shoring up a fast-degrading faith in the rightness of society as it is.

If there is one complaint I have to make about Harmony and Melody, it is in McCafferty’s characterization of them. As vehicles to question the norms of the world they live in, they are perfect. But McCafferty appears to have become so enamored of their purpose that they lose their identity as people. There is too much happening around them, and to them; but the change that is caused within them by these events is left a little too much to the reader’s powers of deduction. McCafferty spends so much time building her society that the human aspect of the relationship between the two sisters suffers. They spend hardly any time together; as a result, their eventual ‘bonding’ feels contrived. Zen, too, is a character with great potential for being interesting, but he doesn’t get enough page space to translate the potential into reality.

The premise of Bumped also highlights another issue that I have been pondering for a while; the question of whether a book about teenagers is always necessarily a Young Adult book. I found Bumped to be a highly sexual read, and perhaps a little too sophisticated ideologically for the YA group. You don’t need to describe MasSex orgies or RePro sessions in detail in order to introduce a sexual element into a book. In fact, McCafferty has done it in an effortlessly ungraphic way. But there is no denying that a book that deals with the question of reproductive choice is of necessity sexual. Added to it are the numerous sexual double entendres peppering the conversation of every character in the book. It’s almost horrifying how casually these teenagers accept the idea of sex and toss around words like pro boner and hornergy and everythingbut (as in, everything but sex). No doubt this is the point that is intended to be driven home, but in a genre ruled by the Mormon clique, I am not sure how positively this portrayal will be received.

While this review, and the subject matter are somewhat sombre, kudos to Megan McCafferty for lightening the tone of the book! Despite what lies beneath, the actual tone of the book is much lighter, more satirical than introspective. It's not a hard read emotionally; but it is intellectually stimulating.

Bumped is undoubtedly one of the most interesting books I have read in a long, long time. However, I cannot begin to describe my frustration with how the book ends. It’s like finding a beautiful first edition copy of a classic, and then discovering that the critical last pages are missing! I think this is intended to be a series, although I can find no indication of it on her website, but it MUST be so, because that ending doesn’t really qualify as an ending! I was just left dangling from a rope with no safety net in sight! Where is my neatly wrapped-up, all ends tied HEA?

This is definitely a book worth reading, one that I would recommend without hesitation. Four stars for some great world building and innovative ideas. Minus one star for some clunky sentence structure, excessive use of slanguage, insufficient character development, the slow beginning and THAT ENDING!!!

P.S. I think the cover for this book is one of the most adorable things I've seen in forever!

DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book from the publishers via Net Galley. No considerations, monetary or otherwise influenced this review.
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Reading Progress

10.0% "This book is so sexual! I'm not sure it could be classified as YA!" 4 comments

Comments (showing 1-36 of 36) (36 new)

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message 1: by Tatiana (new) - added it

Tatiana Did you get it from Netgalley?

Vinaya Yup, of course! :)

message 3: by Tatiana (new) - added it

Tatiana Lucky:)

I am curious about this book, but at the same time so very tired of dystopias...

Vinaya I haven't read either of these books, in fact, I haven't even heard of XVI, but from what I've read of Wither, it's one of those books that takes itself too seriously. Bumped is nothing like that. The whole tone of the book is so tongue-in-cheek, and it's not emotionally wringing. It gives you a lot of food for thought, but it doesn't shove it down your throat. I really liked it, both the subject matter and the execution!

message 5: by Cory (new) - added it

Cory XVI sounds both terrifyingly cool and weird. Now Wither on the other hand, I'm not to keen on reading that.

message 6: by Flannery (new)

Flannery Great review, V. I'm not surprised at the tone as I thought her Jessica Darling series was hilarious--at least for the first few installments. It's funny you mentioned looking up 'dystopia' because I did the same exact thing a few weeks ago--people keep tossing it out for every book that even sniffs of the future. Just because books are set in some hypothetical future doesn't make them a dystopia:)

Oh, and UGH on the Harmony and Melody names.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Ok, I read this review from beginning to end.

I want to now read it, because I need something like this in my reading vocabulary, so I have something like this to talk to people about when I talk about future books to read or recommendations that don't include 'fluff' or any other sort of romance type book. I'm finding I'm extremely uneducated on just a bigger variety of reading material to toss out to people.

Second, the whole thing that was running through my mind was. "Why can't they just in vitro?" Or are they saying that it has to be sex? I'm so curious as to why it has to be physical reproduction, rather then a lab reproduction that I need to read it lol

Vinaya Flann, I heart Marcus. Marcus was the man of my dreams when I was eighteen. And nineteen. And twenty... you get the drift. I didn't read the last book in the series, but I've heard it's not fabulous, so I'm kinda glad I gave it a miss.

Lindsey, they can't in vitro because the virus renders the women's wombs completely inhospitable to a fetus. As for the teenagers, why should they in vitro when sex is the cheaper, easier, more pleasurable option, right? Although at one point, it is mentioned that Melody hopes to work on a research team looking at alternative methods of conception.

message 9: by Janina (new)

Janina Great review, Vinaya! I tried getting this from NetGalley as well because I loved the first two Jessica Darling books and wanted to see how McCafferty handled this totally different subject. But sadly, HarperCollins doesn't like me ... ;P. But I think I'll give this a try when it comes out.

Oh, and I agree with Flannery, the names are just ... ugh.

Vinaya Lol, I think you should start a 'HC never gives me galleys' club on GR. You'll have hundreds of people joining up, it's all I've heard about since I got my ARCs (in the plural!) Yes, I am crowing ignobly and karma will ensure that I never get another galley ever again! O_O

The names are truly awful, but the characters kind of hate them too! There's this one scene where Zen meets Harmony for the first time, and asks Melody,
"Is that her?"
"No," Melody says drily,"That's the third sister, Symphony. And there are two more at home who look just like her named Rhythm and Tempo."


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Cory wrote: "XVI sounds both terrifyingly cool and weird. Now Wither on the other hand, I'm not to keen on reading that."

XVI was a big let-down for me. I was hoping for something interesting, but the writing is...uh, let's say 'sub-par' and leave it at that.

message 12: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan Is it just me, or are there a lot of "dystopians" lately which encourage/prevent teens from having sex? That's like writing about book about placing a cat in a garden of catnip & expecting the kitty to ignore all of the tasty kitty crack, right? lol I have faith in you though, Vinaya & will give this one a try =) But it better be good, or else!!! *cue foreboding music*

Vinaya This is true. Thanks to Tatiana, though, I've steered clear of them, and so I have NO idea how similar or dissimilar they are to this book! Also, as I mentioned before, most of these books tend to take themselves a little too seriously. Bumped is a lot more fun to read, once you get past the initial confusion with the world building and slang. I hope you like it, or I might have to run away to another continent and hide... oh wait. ;)

message 14: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe I am really excited about this one (despite the title, which i think is LAME SAUCE). I was a big McCafferty fan in HS. I've requested it from NetGalley but HarperTeen is taking it's time approving my request. :(

I actually think, with both normal adolescent pressures to have sex, our sexualized society, and so many high schools still preaching abstinence-only ed, exploring sexuality in these books is a good good thing. Especially when you compare it to unrealistically chaste books like Matched.

message 15: by Vinaya (last edited Feb 27, 2011 08:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Vinaya McCafferty actually says in her foreword that the book is inspired by the choice vs. abstinence debate and the increasing media spotlight on teenage sexual activity and teen pregnancies. Also, too many teenage books get icky when it comes to sex. They are either all about sex-behind-closed-doors-post-marriage (because an 18 year old straight out of high school getting married is SO forward-thinking!) like Twilight or reckless schmexing, like DUFF. I think I like Bumped because it conveys a vivid sexuality without needing to get graphic about it.

Also, Phoebe, if you dislike the title, I better warn you that it's their slang for getting pregnant and you are going to come across the word a million times in the course of the book!

message 16: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Ha, I figured! Everything I've read about the book indicates that McCafferty is all about the FutureWords (if you haven't read it, my friend Sean has a great blog post about this kind of world building on our group writing blog -! But she's usually pretty astute when it comes to people so I'll forgive her that.

Hmm. I wonder if there's some way I can prod HarperTeen. Been waiting for that one and Starcrossed for almost three weeks now and it's just killing me!

message 17: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Ha, Sean posted in this thread. Dur.

Vinaya Oh, HarperTeen takes forever! I think I had to wait about two weeks for my books, too! I have Starcrossed, hah! :)

message 19: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Ooh, can't wait for your review! In the meantime, I'll comfort myself with my galley of Wither (which I'm enjoying so far, but definitely DOES take itself very seriously)!

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

The whole concept just seems so damned interesting!

I can't wait for this to come out to read it! =)

They say that is projected for May, is that right?

message 21: by AH (new) - added it

AH Great review, Vinaya. It did sound like Wither, only a better read. I look forward to reading this when it comes out.

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead The book initially gave me "Wither Cooties" so I wanted to stay far away but your review has given me a new interest in it.

message 23: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Vinaya, I'm starting to suspect we are TasteTwins. I'm nearly done with this one and grinning like an idiot. Never thought I'd be cheering for a bunch of evangelical Christians to get together.

Vinaya I know, it's fabulous, right? It just hit me on so many levels, and now I get pissed when people dismiss it without understanding the subtleties. This book, for me, is one of those books featuring teenagers that actually ought not to be shelved under YA.

message 25: by Kat Kennedy (new) - added it

Kat Kennedy Fantastic review, Vinaya! I think I will give this one a go!

Vinaya I keep wanting to respond with LolKat, but I restrain myself every time. But I'd like to see your take on this, although we are not always TasteTwins like Phoebe and I! Have you requested the galley?

message 27: by Kat Kennedy (new) - added it

Kat Kennedy I have now, sunshine! I don't think I have a taste twin...


message 28: by Lyndsey (last edited Mar 14, 2011 01:55AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lyndsey So I'm reading this now and I'm kind of hating it.

But I just wanted to say this: had it read it been written as well as your review, I think I would be enjoying it A LOT more. You actually are much better at relaying the important information than this book has been so far. I like your review a lot more than I like the actual book right now.

Melissa Rochelle You're review is dead on! (One thing I found really annoying is that she kept talking about the MiNet, but never really explained it. I was almost finished when I realized it was like Facebook, but you had to wear contacts to view it...crazy future stuff.)

Vinaya Oh, I was annoyed about the MiNet, too, even though I forgot to mention it in my review! It just got mentioned so often, but with no indication of how it worked! The contacts aren't really a sufficient explanation, imo.

message 31: by SKB (new) - rated it 4 stars

SKB I loved this book. FYI, I know this book is meant to be a two-parter. The names are hokey, but they are deliberately so--Melody admits that her biomom was some junkie who named them when she was high.

River Excellent review! I loved this book, really made me think. It has so many levels.

message 33: by Tinafairy (new) - added it

Tinafairy Great Review. Very well written and in detail. I hate when authors leave you hanging.

message 34: by Alannah (new)

Alannah Young wow, I love your honesty and the way you looked at this book. This review makes me want to reread Bumped with a new perspective.

message 35: by Don (new) - added it

Don Loved the age-o-meter pun, made me crack myself. Authors love doing that, I think 'they' think it connects them to their target audience. When you think about it logically. authors are sending out a message, just as advertising agencies are, they need to say the right thing to their target audience, in order for them to react.

Destiny Thank you for this review. It was really well written. I will be reading this one.

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