In a world where a virus has left everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, teenage pregnancy is the only hope for the future. Young girls are enticed to get pregnant with promises of college scholarships and cash or appeals to their patriotism. Sixteen year old Melody Mayflower considers herself lucky to have secured a great contract to "pregg" on behalf of a wealthy couple. However, her plan becomes complicated with the arrival on the scene of her identical twin sister Harmony, who was raised in a religious settlement to become a good Christian wife and mother. Harmony believes it is a sin to pregg for profit and is determind to save Melody before she "bumps" with Jondoe, the glamorous partner who has been chosen for her. When Jondoe arrives he accidentally woos the wrong sister, which could spell the end to all their plans.
Bumped raises all kinds of interesting ethical issues around sex, surogacy, teen pregnancy, religion, gender roles, marriage, motherhood and how a woman's worth is measured. Most importantly, it's about choice. Both of the sisters were coerced into the roles that were chosen for them by their parents. Both sisters have already begun to question those roles even before they meet, but seeing themselves through each other's eyes may speed up the process.
Sex and accidental teen pregnancy are often fodder for young adult books but intentional teen pregnancy and childbirth itself are discussed less often. Being interested in all things birthy I found it interesting that the girls seem to have minimal medical intervention into their pregnancies, being allowed to carry their children up to 42 weeks without being induced (something which doesn't often happen in present day Australia), but when it comesto the birth itself they are knocked out with a drug called Obliterall (reminiscent of the Twilight Sleep used in the early to mid twentieth century) to awaken after their babies have been taken away. They are also dosed with a drug to help prevent them from bonding with their babies and another drug to help cope with stress and emotional pain after the birth. In fact the majority of people in the post virus world seem to use Tocin, a drug which makes them feel more attractive and see others the same way, similar to the use of Soma in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
There is no mention of breastfeeding or teen surrogates (or "surrogettes" as they are called) pumping breastmilk to provide for the babies, so it would seem that the society of the future has lost the art of breastfeeding. Also, for some reason IVF is apparently no longer a viable option for surrogacy, meaning that teenage girls have to actually have sex to get pregnant rather than be artificially inseminated. Teen pregnancy is lauded, but sex purely for pleasure or for love is reserved for "Obsolescents", or those old enough to have already been sterilsed by the virus. Teenage girls who don't have babies are looked down on and the worst insult a teen can be called is a "virge on the verge", ie. a virgin on the verge of obsolescence.
The book is full of pretend future teen slang, which takes a bit of getting used to. In particular, I found it hard to keep reading when characters talked about being "wanked off" about things. I don't know whether the American author was aware that "wank" is already a slang term in the UK and the Commonwealth but the characters certainly didn't seem to be using it the same way.
Bumped is a feminist story for teens about the importance of being allowed to choose your own path in life and the dangers of reducing women and girls to the status of incubators rather than complete human beings. Recommended for teens and adults who are interested in feminism and ethics or who are just looking for an interesting young adult novel that will leave you with plenty to think about and isn't full of violence.
If you enjoy this book there is a sequel called Thumped which picks up where the first book left off.