Monday, 12 March 2012

Bumped - Megan McCafferty (#1)

I had heard about this many times on the blogosphere, first from US bloggers around this time last year and eventually UK bloggers, when it was released here late last year. I could guess what it was about from the cover and although, this vaguely intrigued me, I was never TOO worried about this book.
Until I found it lurking around my local library in the 'NEW!'section. I had read a review by Ria from The Beaucoup Review which really made me want to read this. So I grabbed it along with a couple of others...

Synopsis: In 2036 New Jersey, teenage girls are either religious wives in Goodside or high-priced Surrogettes in Otherside. Due to the Virus, everyone over the age of 18 is infertile, making teenagers the only option for couples to have children. When 16 year-old twins, Melody and Harmony finally meet, they start to fulfil what THEY want to do with their lives.

Review: I'm not entirely sure what to say about this book. I read it very quickly as it was due back soon after I started it.
It is a quick read, even if it is 300-and-something pages. And why? Well, because I was so engrossed in what I was reading, I turned the pages quicker.

First thing first, this is a very controversial book. McCafferty looks at a variety of touchy, taboo like subjects such as teen pregnancy and paying the teens to get pregnant for a donor. She could also be accused of criticising the Church in MANY ways. However, despite the use of these touchy subjects, it makes it a very interesting read.

The book starts rather randomly really. We are taken to a moment after Melody and Harmony have met each other, like we've been dropped off in the middle of the narrative. I kind of liked this, the story started swiftly and we were introduced to our protagonists well here too. But it felt foreign and a bit confusing to be thrown into this book.
The aspect any reader will notice instantly is the slang language used by Melody and her fellow characters in Otherside. All the words reference to pregnancy or babies, constantly reminding me of this baby obsessed society. The slang is confusing at first, yes, but after a while, I started to understand and got used to this. After you understand all the words real meanings, you will understand them throughout the book and they won't bother you again. It's only at the beginning where we're thrown into this world and situation that it is a bit alarming.

The story is set in Otherside. These places act a bit like the North and South divide of America with the Bible Belt states - that what it reminded me a lot of anyway. The setting seems so realistic for me, places I would hang out with friends but different. When they go to the mall, they go to a clothes shop that is about getting accessories for having a baby or looking like you are having one. Constantly, the places and situations Melody and Harmony are in are realistic to teenagers like myself but yet very very different.

Something that struck me from this was that this is set in the near future for us and seems like our world could be like this. The world is very real to me, making it uncomfortable yet intriguing to read about at times. The sexualisation of teenagers is something that concerns us now, yet is second nature in this world in BUMPED. Alternatively, being a teenager, I never feel valued by my older peers but in this society, Melody could be me, pregnant constantly throughout my teens and always earning money. It seems so wrong yet, so right for the situation the world is in. Being pregnant or having sex with someone you don't know is encouraged? It seems such a weird idea to us.

The narrative is told alternatively from Melody and Harmony's points of view which makes it a much more well rounded, engaging novel. However, I had my annoyances with both these characters. Melody started off very catty but I found her narrative much much more interesting the whole way through. Harmony, on the other hand, started off rather boring for me. When she started talking on and on about the Church and her belief, I thought 'Oh here we go for the whole book'. And I was right until about halfway through when she become increasingly more readable. The characters themselves were great, I much preferred Melody as I think she is a lot like me. A more minor character that I loved greatly was Zen, Melody's best friend. He adds much needed humour to a book that may be too intense.

My only problem with this book really is some of the choices by Harmony. Some of the actions she does in the novel, I don't agree with and I think the character she starts off as wouldn't have done these things anyway, even if she did change.

Overall, I found this book rather good actually. I didn't find it amazing...there was something for me that I missed, no great spark and it all happened rather quickly (it is set over three days!) for me. The characters are interesting and McCafferty has done a great job in making them so different and showing their personal change. Yes, this is controversial and may not be to everyone's tastes. But despite the cringy slang and the 'taboo' issues, this book has depth a lot of books miss out on. This is a world that I can see vividly in my future if it could happen and although, at times light-hearted, this deals with some serious, much needed to be addressed issues.
Verdict: Give it a go - but there may be mixed reactions. It is not amazing, yet not terrible.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 323
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Challenges: None

The next book in the series, THUMPED, is due out on the 26th April 2012 (UK)

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