If you are one of those who is turned off by slang in YA dystopias, avoid this one like the plague!
Slang can supplement (and presumably enhance an understanding of) world-building, as it does with the Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld and the Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner. But sometimes, as in this book, it just serves as a stand-in for world-building. Its purpose seems to be to emphasize that these are not our times; in other words, to establish the existence of dystopia without supplying any description or background information. To me, that’s a bit like using zombies as metaphors for evil. There’s a richer narrative to be had by not taking the easy way out!
In the futuristic scenario of this book, almost three-quarters of all males and females are sterile because of infection with HPSV: Human Progressive Sterility Virus. Most of those affected become sterile between their eighteenth and twentieth birthdays. Therefore, as with (very) similar stories (see my review of Wither, here), the market takes over, and young, fertile females become hot commodities. They are encouraged to serve as surrogates for older couples in exchange for money and other benefits. The pregnant mother is administered drugs to counteract the chemical bond between the biomom and the “pregg” (the use of the word “baby” is discouraged).
Melody is sixteen and is frowned upon by her friends because she is not yet pregnant. She has contracted with a married couple to be a “surrogette,” but they haven’t found her the “perfect” match yet. Meanwhile, she discovers she has an identical twin, Harmony, who was brought up in a religious community, and Harmony makes a surprise visit.
Melody and Harmony describe what happens next in alternate chapters. In somewhat of a rehash of “Parent Trap,” they don’t like each other at first, but then get on the same team, and change each other in totally unexpected ways.
Evaluation: The overuse of slang is annoying. The characters are totally stock. Zen, who is the male best friend of Melody, is exactly like every other male best friend of a dystopian female protagonist, including being secretly in love with her. (Zen, however, at just over 5 feet seven inches has “insufficient verticality” to be considered a good match, and Melody, beautiful and smart, is destined to mate with a “RePro” or “reproductive professional.”)
Harmony, trying to bring everyone to “God,” gets involved with Melody’s intended RePro in a predictable plotline that seems to be taken right out of the movie “Elmer Gantry” (based on the book by Sinclair Lewis). [Melody’s a busy girl, what with jumping around from the plot of “Parent Trap” to the plot of “Elmer Gantry.”]
And when Melody all of the sudden wants to be valued for “what’s between [her] ears instead of what’s between her legs,” there’s little explanation for this sudden rejection of her lifelong raison d’etre.
There are some clever satirical digs at society, but most of the attempts at satire are rendered too fatuously. Compare, for instance, the mastery of social satirists Kurt Vonnegut or James Morrow. (Actually, no comparison.)
Published by Balzer + Bray, 2011
Note: Note, there is of course a sequel, called Thumped, in line with the tendency of authors to devise alliterative or close-to-identical titles for continuations of books.