You may remember a little novel that blew my mind last year: Bumped, by Megan McCafferty. I couldn’t believe that someone had combined three of my favorite things: dystopias, life issues, and teenagers with problems. I also couldn’t believe that no one was talking about it! It’s not a stretch to think that our world could turn into McCafferty’s. In the sequel, Thumped, McCafferty picks up where Bumped left off and shows us a world where there is hope.
If you didn’t read my review of Bumped, go do it. There will be SPOILERS for Bumped ahead.
To recap, in the world of Bumped, most of the world’s fertility has been reduced to the short years between puberty and legal adulthood (still age 18). Teens still don’t make the best parents, so older adults pay huge sums for teen girls to carry their designer babies. Melody was set to fulfill a prime contract by “bumping” with Jondoe, the hottest teen “father” on the market, until her twin sister Harmony ran away from her religious family to save Melody—and, in a way, to save herself. When we pick up the story in Thumped, Harmony and Melody are eight months pregnant, anxiously awaiting the Double Double Due Date of their own twins, and getting rich from the publicity and carefully marketed products. They’re both hiding big secrets, though, and unless they start telling the truth, their new world will fall apart.
I loved the pacing, storytelling skill, and authentic language of Bumped. I didn’t love that McCafferty generally promoted surrogacy and made Harmony, the closest thing to a three-dimensional character who is also religious, still seem too caricatured. Thumped had the same great literary characteristics as Bumped, and, as I hoped, it brought out the larger vision of the story. As the truth about Melody’s and Harmony’s babies emerges, we learn that not everyone is as comfortable with the new world order as they seemed. Jondoe loves Harmony, but no one knows he’s the twins’ father, and she won’t speak to him. Harmony loves Jondoe, but she won’t leave her husband or turn away from God. Melody loves Zane, but he doesn’t want to be a dad. And Zane loves Melody, but he can’t be with her while she’s officially with Jondoe and carrying his babies, who legally belong to someone else anyway. Zane has a particularly complicated plan to get everyone what they want, but is Melody prepared for the climax once his plan in motion? The only way for anyone to be happy is to stop living lies and run toward the truth. The truth will set you free.
The freedom of the truth is rarely reached without a struggle, though. It’s not just Zane who takes steps to right a world that forces teens to have sex and babies for cash. Harmony realizes that there must be more to motherhood than she knows. For the first time, she starts to figure out what she believes about God and about life. Melody finally realizes that she’s just a gear in her parents’ system, and she’s not willing to turn anymore. Even Jondoe, a human product, turns out to actually be deeper than a winning smile and flawless genetic material. At the end of Thumped, there is hope for everyone that things can be different. They can be better.
My overall impression of this pair of books is that, when you don’t know what sex is for, it’s so easy to misuse it and wonder why your problems aren’t being solved. When sex is divorced from love and love is rarely part of sex, is it any wonder that the free will and emotions of real people get lost in the shuffle? When countries can’t come together to face the global problem of shrinking fertility, is it any wonder that no one can solve it? Together, Bumped and Thumped make us take a hard look at fame, freedom, faith, and fertility. Is it worth being a superstar if you have to live a lie? Is it worth doing what seems necessary when, with a little work, it wouldn’t be? Will we ever learn the true power of sex and love, or will be be left believing the lies?
Up next: The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, by widely-known author and Colbert Report “chaplain,” Fr. James Martin, SJ