In the midst of all the dystopian novels that are out these days, Megan McCafferty's Bumped separates itself from the pack with an amusing blend of quirky humor and a world that is frightening not only in its differences from our current world, but in its hyper-intensified take on the familiar.

Let's start with the changes: a virus that seems to affect almost the entire world population has resulted in fertility taking such a nose-dive that most adults are sterile by 18 or 20 -- which means the baby-making has to happen early or not at all. In response, religious groups pretty much marry girls off as early as possible, but the rest of the world is starting to warm up to a different, more capitalist approach: pregging for profit. Teens themselves might not be ready to be a parent and raise a baby, but they COULD offer it for adoption... and a cash incentive from potential adoptive parents (or, say, the prospect of a free ride to college and a car) means that more and more girls are looking to get "bumped" early on.

Now let's shift to the eerily familiar -- though technically we started on "eerily familiar" when we introduced the capitalist greed element. Technology has made leaps in communication avenues (there exists an online system of communication called MiNet accessible via contact lenses where blinking cues control the program). Parents push their daughters into the idea of pregging for profit (the same way they already push extracurriculars, except now pregging is in addition to those sports teams and orchestra performances). Oh, and high school is still a cliqueish hell on earth, but that's kind of an "always has been, always will be" thing.

Melody's parents are economics professors, who long foretold of the day when a teenage girl's fertility would be the most valuable thing on earth. So Melody, herself an adopted child, was raised with the knowledge that she, too, would join the ranks of pregnant teens -- but she would do it as a professional (Reproductive Professionals are know as RePros). The first in her school with an agent and a contract to preg for a wealthy couple, Melody made professional pregging a widely accepted option at her school -- to the point where the professionals and the amateurs actually experience some tension. Melody, meanwhile, may have started the debate but can't really enjoy full participation in the argument... as she isn't pregnant. Her wealthy couple is dithering on male gene choices, so Melody is stuck with her own nerves about them wasting her valuable time to get bumped before the virus renders her sterile... and that's on top of the general nerves that accompany bumping at all. Her super pregnant best friend is slightly useless for all this stress, which would normally send Melody to her other best friend, a guy, but things have started to get slightly weird between them and Melody's not sure what to do with that, either.

Now, let's switch to Harmony. You see, Melody and Harmony are identical twins, separated at birth. Harmony was adopted in to a cult/commune religious community and it appears that when she learned about her twin, she simply went forth to try and convert her sister to the path of righteousness... but it's quickly apparent that Harmony is not quite as simple as all that might suggest. In fact, it appears as though she fled her beloved community in order to find her sister and very little proselytizing is going on, though Harmony does spend a lot of time marveling at the society and technological advances. Melody is slightly appalled at Harmony's presence, because it devalues her own stock on the RePro market if there's another person out there offering the exact same genetic material. Plus, to have one's long-lost twin show up on one's doorstep is not exactly normal. Inevitably, the fact that they are identical twins leads to all kinds of mix-ups and confusions, particularly when Melody is offered the chance to bump with the world-famous Jondoe... but Harmony is the one he finds waiting at Melody's house.

This may be a lot of information to take (indeed, the first 20% of the book has a rather steep learning curve as you dive in), but if you can handle a complicated world (and a WHOLE LOT of new vocabulary and slang), then you'll find that Bumped is shockingly deep in its assessment of the issues that arise from this world. McCafferty somehow strikes a fantastic balance between light-hearted humor and intense philosophical thought when it comes to the choices teens make. And that's not just limited to her world, either. The question of when to have sex and with whom and for what reasons. The idea of doing something because society (including one's parent) says it's the right thing to do, even when you're not sure it's the right decision for you. What to do when faced with unspeakable heartbreak and tremendously difficult decisions. Pretty deep for a YA novel that's core premise involves having sex and getting pregnant. Given that premise, parents may not think this a book for very young teens, but it's also not explicit or graphic, so I wouldn't really worry about it too much. Besides, it might even remind girls that sex is a complicated subject and shouldn't be something they rush in to without thinking of the consequences, both physical and emotional.

While you might grow a bit weary of the slang that the book creates (and you might have to keep reminding yourself exactly which twin is which), you'll also find yourself seriously thinking about the plot of this book (and the shocking cliff-hanger of an ending) for a long time after you set it down. Bumped is funny and thoughtful -- a combination that will keep you devouring page after page, desperate to know what decisions Harmony and Melody will make as their lives get even more tangled up. Now we only need to wait and see what interesting issues will arise in the sequel, Thumped, because even if certain plot points will be obvious, I would bet that McCafferty still has some surprising and fascinating things up her sleeve.

Full disclosure. This book indirectly factors in to my professional life. This is a personal review, but feel free to let that info factor in to what you make of this review.

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