Review of “Bumped” by Megan McCafferty

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.

Hayley Mills playing twins in the 1961 movie The Parent Trap

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.”]

Jean Simmons as the female evangelist in the 1960 movie 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.)

Rating: 2.5/5

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.

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14 Responses to Review of “Bumped” by Megan McCafferty

  1. Sandy says:

    I think perhaps you are talking to me! Ha! You are totally correct, some books overuse that slang thing to try to create a world (ahem…XVI) and others seamlessly weave it in so it seems natural. The Doomsday Book actually had quite a bit of slang but it never bothered me. I hate to be judgemental, but I’m thinking this book might bug the living hell out of me! Who knows.

    P.S. Got back last night. It’s going to take me a few days to get back in my routines but I had to come by!

  2. Sorry you didn’t seem to like this one very much. I agree, the slang was a bit much, although once I got used to it the story flowed a lot better.

  3. Beth S. says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Your observation about the slang being used in place of world building was so on point! And don’t get me started on the ridiculous ending – or non-ending I should say. I mean, I’m all for a cliffhanger, but that wasn’t even a cliffhanger.

  4. zibilee says:

    I have heard a lot about this book, but your review was the most comprehensive and dealt with issues that I would have looked at myself. I don’t think I would like a lot of this book, because although the premise sounds interesting, I would hate all the slang and would also hate the fact that the characters and plot seem recycled. This was a great review, and really gave me the scoop on this book that other reviews haven’t. Thanks very much, Jill!

  5. Ti says:

    I just finished a book with an overuse of slang. It really got on my nerves.

    I love the term “insufficient verticality” though.

  6. Thanks for the review. It just reiterates my stance on not reading this one. It just isn’t the book for me. Completely avoiding it.

  7. Staci says:

    I’m going to run with your review and steer clear of this one. I thought just by reading the other reviews that liked this that it really wasn’t one for me.

  8. celawerd says:

    This sounds like a very unique story. Too bad it was not better.

  9. Meg says:

    Though I really enjoyed this one and am a huge fan of McCafferty, I can definitely see where you’re coming from! The slang was very confusing and I was almost ready to give up on this one, but I pushed through to the 100-page mark — and then I was hooked.

  10. yep, i’m one of those in the ‘didn’t love it’ camp. i adore megan mccafferty’s other books–and, hey, she’s a jersey girl, too–but i just could NOT warm to bumped. at all. i know that it was all satire and that mccafferty is smart as a whip but this one didn’t do it for me. the characters left me uninspired and i’m not looking forward to the sequel. 😦

  11. MarthaE says:

    Glad I caught this review. I had been thinking about this series. Soooo maybe it’s not for me either. 🙂 Thanks for a thorough review.

  12. Jenners says:

    I struggle with YA to begin with so I’m definitely going to skip this book!

  13. Julie P. says:

    Well I bet it would make for an interesting discussion book!

  14. Biblibio says:

    The recent increase of young adult books dealing with infertility just about drives me crazy. Each one seems less original than the next, all collapsing around some central flaw (with Bumped, it appears to be a combination of cliches and sloppy writing). Can this fad please, please end soon?

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