Book Review: Thumped, Megan McCafferty (2012)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

The Sexual Revolution of the Future

four out of five stars

It’s 2036 and the world’s population is in crisis. The Human Progressive Sterility Virus has shortened men’s and women’s reproductive years dramatically; starting around the age of 18, fertility swiftly drops off and disappears altogether. Whereas it once was taboo, teen pregnancy is humanity’s only chance for survival. Teens are encouraged to “bump” – either professionally, for profit or as amateurs, for fun and slightly less profit – and give their “deliveries” (never “babies”) up for adoption.

You might think that these “liberal” attitudes toward sex and childbirth would result in greater freedom and increased options for young women – but you’d be wrong. Teenage girls face unrelenting pressure to have at least one or two children before sterility sets in: propaganda masquerading as curriculum permeates the schools; parents take out loans against their daughters’ future reproductive potential; Surrogettes are treated like celebrities; and having babies is packaged as a form of patriotism. Likewise, women aren’t just compelled to have children, but to give them away – even if this goes against their wishes. Moms-to-be are dosed with drugs to suppress maternal feelings towards the fetus, and surrogate contracts heavily favor the rights of the adoptive parents. “Deliveries” are whisked away before the birth mothers can recover from their drug-induced stupors, let alone catch a glimpse of the human beings they carried and nurtured in their wombs for nine long months.

During their teenage years, girls are treated like baby-making machines – and, as lucrative a “career” as this might be, even the most valuable object is still just that: an object.

In Bumped, we meet two young women who are trying to navigate this precarious world. Long-lost twin sisters, Melody and Harmony are alike in appearance only. Raised in the gated religious community of Goodside, at 16 years of age Harmony has already been married off, and to a man she hardly knows. (But hey, at least they’re roughly the same age; this is a step up from so many fundamentalist religious groups.) Now she’s expected to fulfill her wifely duties, which chiefly include subservience to the menfolk and child rearing.

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Book Review: Bumped, Megan McCafferty (2011)

Friday, February 1st, 2013

The SyFy Channel Does “Teen Mom”

four out of five stars

The year is 2036 and a viral epidemic is threatening the world’s population. Those infected with the HSPV – Human Progressive Sterility Virus – enjoy just a few precious years of fertility; starting around the age of 18, one’s ability to procreate dwindles and then fails altogether. What was once taboo – babies having babies – is now necessary to human survival.

Consequently, teen pregnancy isn’t just commonplace, but encouraged – patriotic, even: in America, chain stores like Babiez R U market faux baby bumps to young girls, complete with matching stretchy tees that sport catchy, pro-repro slogans like “Do the Deed, Born to Breed”; the local high school openly hosts a “Pro/Am” club (professional “preggers” – i.e., hired surrogates – and amateurs, or those girls who partner with whom they choose and then auction off their offspring to the highest bidder – coming together to make “pregging” sexy!); and especially “desirable” teens are represented by cutthroat agents called ReproReps, who strive to earn them top dollar for their “deliveries” (never “babies”). And, oh yeah, condoms are illegal (presumably along with other forms of birth control).

Whereas sex for reproduction (“bumping”) is practically mandatory, recreational sex is frowned upon for the high school set. Whether through carefully negotiated contracts or masSex parties, many young women strive to deliver at least one or two (or ten, in Zora Harding’s case) babies before their “fertilicious” years pass them by.

Against this backdrop, protagonists Melody and Harmony are two young women whose divergent experiences with female objectification demonstrate the many ways misogyny can manifest itself. Adopted into separate homes shortly after birth, the twin sisters were raised in two very different cultures. Mel’s parents Ash and Ty are former economists who predicted the rise of the surrogate market and groomed their daughter to supply this demand from childhood. Meanwhile, Harmony became a ward of “The Church,” a fundamentalist Christian community that isolates itself from the outside world (“Otherside”) in a suburban gated community filled with abandoned McMansions (“Goodside”).

It’s not until their sixteenth year that the two meet – Harmony, having just entered into an arranged marriage with fellow “unteachable soul” Ram; and Melody, on the cusp of “bumping” with famous “cock jockey” Jondoe, thus fulfilling her contract with the Jaydens – and, through a case of mistaken identity/fraud, both girls’ lives are changed forever. (I won’t reveal any plot details beyond this, since there are a number of twists – some of them expected, others less so – and I don’t want to spoil it for would-be readers.)

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