Corgi Books, 2011
Sixteen-year-old Melody is gorgeous, athletic and has perfect grades, and has scored an amazing contract with a rich couple. And she's been matched with one of the most desirable 'bumping' partners in the world - the incredibly hot, genetically flawless Jondoe.
But Melody's luck is about to run out. She discovers she has a sister - an identical twin, Harmony, who has grown up in a religious community opposed to the idea of 'pregging'. Harmony believes her calling is to save Melody from her sinful plans. Melody doesn't have time for this - she can't wait to meet Jondoe and seal the deal. But when he arrives and mistakes Harmony for Melody, everyone's carefully-laid plans are swept out of control - and Melody and Harmony are about to realise they have so much more than just DNA in common.
Bumped is a near-future dystopian set in the United States, in which a virus has swept through the population and rendered almost everyone over the age of eighteen infertile and unable to reproduce. In 2036, teenagers are prized above all for their ability to have babies. Reproduction has become marketable, with rich couples bidding on pregnancies and deliveries. The most intelligent, attractive teenage girls can go 'pro' for huge amounts of money, selling their reproductive function to the highest bidder and having an equally desirable partner chosen for them. Others go the 'amateur' route, 'bumping' with their boyfriends or at so-called "masSEX" parties and then auctioning their babies off once they're born.
The concept fascinated me - if asked to name an issue that I care about strongly, reproductive rights would be it every time. The book deals in a world where having reproductive sex is patriotic, a way of keeping the American population going - to have sex with a condom, for pleasure, is the biggest scandal there is. Girls as young as eleven are pregnant, and there is a whole industry built up around this veneration of pregnancy. Melody's parents have spent her whole life making sure she offers the best possible package to prospective parents, and have auctioned off her reproductive capacity (and, in doing so, her virginity) accordingly.
The issues at the heart of the book are incredibly interesting. Unfortunately, the story itself - focusing on Melody and her twin sister Harmony - didn't grab me like I wanted it to. Melody is preparing for her professional 'bumping' (this weird, 'cute' way of referring to sex was reasonably aggravating, but it did underline how immature they all were at heart) and Harmony has come to save her, with the intention of taking Melody back to Goodside, where Harmony lives a strict religious existence. Harmony, too, is expected to have a baby as soon as she is married. Basically, reproductive control is unavoidable.
The last quarter of the book, in which the seedy side of the pro-bumping life is revealed and both Melody and Harmony start to voice their thoughts about this kind of control, was pretty good. Yet up until this point neither character was particularly interesting. Neither seemed to have much discernible personality. Harmony is conservative and God-fearing; Melody is... not. At one point in the book, quite late on, a character refers to Melody's likes and dislikes as listed in her file, but none of these things are ever explored beforehand. Melody's battles with the other girls in the Pro/Am Alliance were interesting, but I never really felt engaged with them.
The ending felt very unfinished, and given that there's a sequel (Thumped) it seems like a set up for another book rather than an actual conclusion. I was disappointed largely because I feel like the issues at the heart of the book, which amounted to legitimised control over reproduction, the commodification of pregnancy and the re-imagining of sex as purely to produce children, are exactly the kind of thing that need exploring and need interrogating as much as possible, yet it felt like a bit of a waste of an idea. The book started slowly and made some half-hearted criticisms without ever staking its claim. Excellent in theory, but not so much in execution.
Overall rating: 4.5/10
Book source: Borrowed from the library.