I love a good dystopian novel. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale has been one of my favorite books since I first read it (around 1999). It follows that I'd appreciate the spate of dystopian (both YA and not) fiction being published recently. Of the seven of books I've gotten for myself during the Borders liquidation (the list is below for those of you who haven't been keeping track), three have been dystopians. I've already posted about Shades of Grey. This post is the first of two focused on the YA dystopians I brought home and read right away.
Bumped by Megan McCafferty
I'd been wanting to read Bumped for what seemed like ages (it can't really have been all that long, though, since the book only came out this April). I kept seeing good reviews of the novel, which made me want to read it even more.
Bumped takes place in min-2030s Princeton, New Jersey. In the wake of the Human Progressive Sterility Virus epidemic, the United States is trying raise its teenage birthrate. When nearly all individuals over the age of eighteen are infertile, nubile girls are the highest valued segment of the population.
The novel's protagonists, Melody and Harmony, are sixteen-year-old identical twins who were separated at birth. Melody's adoptive parents have groomed her to be the first girl in her school to "go professional." She's got a six-figure contract and she's just waiting for her couple to find their perfect sperm donor. Harmony, on the other hand, was raised in a religious community. In her world, girls marry young and only have sex (and children) within marriage. Harmony discovers Melody's existence while trying to find her birth parents. The two girls have barely begun to know each other (via email and chat) when Melody arrives on Harmony's doorstep and the narrative begins.
Bumped is a bit different than most much dystopian fiction (which may disappoint some readers). There's no authoritarian government or overt suppression, but there are dystopian elements to the society McCafferty depicts.
And, there's a lot of social commentary both subtle and overt sprinkled throughout Bumped. The more that I think about the novel, the more little digs I remember.
Overall, though, I have to say that my opinion of this book suffered from my high expectations. I didn't dislike Bumped, but I wasn't blown away by it. The concept is interesting and I like how McCafferty uses satire, but I can't help but think that Bumped would have been better if it had been conceived as a one-off rather than the opener for a series. While I didn't like Jondoe's character or the way the novel ended, my biggest criticism of the book is that Harmony did not seem authentic (primarily because some of her decisions were so far out of character that no explanation for them could be satisfactory).
Thumped, the sequel to Bumped, is scheduled for an April 2012 release.