Melody and Harmony, aka "the Hotties" (Hot Twins Having Twins) are two of the most powerful women in the world, but they are living a lie. Harmony's twins aren't her husband's babies but rather the result of her night with Jondoe, the "rePro" (professional inseminator). Melody, who is supposed to be acting as a paid surogate, or "surogette", for a wealthy couple isn't even pregnant, but faking it with the help of advanced technology. For the time being they have the adoration of the world and millions of dollars in sponsorship money, but once Harmony's twins are born the whole scheme is bound to come crashing down around their ears.
In the sequel to Bumped, Melody has come to see all the people who are hurt by the system of paid surrogacy she has been helping promote. The question is what she can do about it. She and her "everythingbut" boyfriend Zen plan to try and start a resistance movement, lobbying for teens to be allowed to use contraception and be supported if they want to have and keep their own babies instead of pressured into having babies for other people. This puts Melody in a unenviable position, since she hates to disappoint her parents, who poured time and money into raising her to be a "top brand" surogate, or the couple who are expecting to adopt her babies.
In one respect the book is similar to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The characters are teenagers being used against their will by adults to further a social agenda. In a way their struggle is life or death since teenagers are threatened with the extinction of the species if they don't have babies while they still can. Like Katniss, Melody finds herself having to publicly pretend to be in love with one boy while secretly in love with another whom she can't be with (at least temporarily). It's interesting to see similar issues framed in a different, much less violent, way.
Meanwhile Harmony is facing having to raise her babies under the strict religious regime she tried to escape, living with a husband she is fond of but doesn't love. Both girls face some very difficult choices and have to work out what they actually want for themselves rather than what others want for them. At least this time they have each other's support to help them through it.
Thumped is every bit as engaging and readable as the first book. I read it very quickly. Like the first book it raises interesting issues about surrogacy, adoption and birth. It would be great for starting a discussion with teenagers about these heavy topics, especially now that surrogacy has been in the media so much since the controversy over baby Gammy, the baby with Down's syndrome who was abandoned by the commissioning couple who adopted only his twin sister.
Both Thumped and Bumped mention the feelings of abandonment adopted children can suffer and the harm that surrogacy can cause to the surrogate (including post-partum haemorrage ending in a hysterectomy, as happens to one of Melody's friends, and the post-partum psychosis suffered by another). They also depict a culture in which birth, and the mothers themselves, are seen as purely a means to an end.
I was pretty sure the part of the book where Harmony gives birth would make me angry, and it did. Here's a trigger warning for women suffering birth trauma. Harmony is bullied by nursing staff and flat out told she must have a caesarean, without so much as any discussion of other options. This parallels the struggle of many real world labouring women in hospitals with a one size fits all model of patient care. It doesn't help that Harmony has done no reading or preparation for giving birth, having only been taught that women should suffer during labour because they deserve to. This too is a message which many real world women receive in places which don't provide young people with adequate information about sex, contraception, pregancy and birth. You can't advocate for yourself or your baby if you don't understand anything about what is happening to you.
Thumped is un-put-down-able book, covering some important topics in an easy to read novel with likeable characters. It provides both a disturbing vision of a possible future and the solution to avoiding that possibility. If you're interested in ethical dilemmas, feminism, childbirth, surrogacy or teen novels with strong female characters then this book is for you.